Everyone gets stressed about the holiday season – there are a million things to get ready for, family members to see, parties to attend, etc. Don’t let money be another item on that list of worries! Some forethought and a little planning throughout the year can help you stay on budget and take some of the holiday stress off your plate.
When it comes to holiday gift shopping try to plan ahead by saving money for gifts and/or party items throughout the year. You could set up a regular savings account that you designate for holiday funds. Most financial institutions also have special holiday or Christmas savings accounts which limit your access to funds until a certain time of year, usually a month or so before the holiday season begins. If you have a spot designated for holiday funds, you can set up automatic transfers from each of your paychecks into that account to spread out the expense throughout the year. You can also adopt the mindset that when those funds are gone that is the end of shopping. Another option for planning ahead is to get wish lists early. This way you can be on the lookout for sales throughout the year or look into layaway options to spread out payments.
If you haven’t thought about putting money away for holiday expenses and now the season is right around the corner, you may be feeling the pressure. Never fear, I have some ideas to help you out! Just because you may have missed out on crazy sales such as Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday doesn’t mean you have to pay full price. It may be a little unorthodox but think about buying some of those items after the holidays. You can print out a picture of the item and wrap that up for your loved one and tell them that they will receive the actual gift after New Year’s. Many items go on sale again after the holidays, just as they did in November. If your budget is getting tighter, try to do homemade gifts. These items can be inexpensive, and you are only limited by your imagination, not your checkbook.
Lastly, avoid these things when shopping for holiday gifts. It may be tempting, but try not to mindlessly swipe your credit card when finding items to purchase for loved ones. Not seeing how much you’ve spent until you get that bill can lead to a lot of stress when you should be enjoying the season with friends and family. If you do end up using your credit card to make purchases, set up a plan beforehand to pay that card off as soon as possible. You don’t want to be paying for this year’s gifts next year. Plus the interest rate on most cards is not something you want to be paying back. Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid getting sucked into all the holiday specials. Some can be great deals, but others can be scams or have conditions or attachments, leaving you paying for something you don’t really need or want for the rest of the year.
Emma Bartz is the Programs and Outreach Specialist with WESTconsin Credit Union, a community partner of Chippewa Valley Family. She helps plan and promote financial education programs for all ages as well as companywide community events and sponsorships. Emma is very active in many community events and causes. Two main areas are agriculture education and military members and their families. She also enjoys running in long-distance races, helping on her and her husband’s dairy farm and working with community members to organize events for the Menomonie Area Young Professionals group.