The holidays bring wonderful times with friends and family, but it’s all too easy to wind up in debt for the New Year. Well-meaning people often equate the spirit of the season with how much money they spend, but that mindset can lead to financial trouble. An annual national survey on holiday spending by the American Research Group found that the average planned spending for 2015 was $882, and that can be a hefty amount for many people.
- Set A Budget
- Comparison Shop
- Get Creative and Do It Yourself
- Collaborate With Others
- Watch Entertainment Costs
Examine what you spent during last year’s holiday season and areas where you spent more than planned, then decide what you can do differently. Make a list of your major spending categories like gifts, entertaining, parties, food, wrapping paper, cards, postage, and traveling expenses, and then estimate how much you can afford to spend in each category. Have a spending limit for each person on your gift list, and if you find a $50-gift on sale for $30, you don’t have to spend more. Many financial planners recommend spending no more than 1.5 percent of your annual income on holiday expenses.
Research prices of big-ticket items in advance so you’ll know a good price when you see one. Don’t wait until the last minute to buy presents or you may end up overspending or buying unplanned items. Learn about any features that make the model you’re considering cost more, and don’t buy the expensive version unless you need or will use these features. Visit comparison-shop websites, such as shopzilla.com and pricegrabber.com; use digital coupon codes posted by sites such as couponcabin.com and retailmenot.com, and sign-up for retailer emails about discounts.
Store-bought gifts are great, but homemade gifts are often more meaningful, and most recipients appreciate the time and effort you put into them. You can get ideas for creative gift projects in books, magazines, and online. You can bake cakes and cookies, make candy, knit or crochet an item, do some type of craft such as creating a photo album or scrapbook, decorate a picture frame, or make a music CD or a photo DVD. Depending on the person’s needs, you can offer the gift of time — baby-sitting or pet-sitting, or give them a coupon to do some household chores or drive them somewhere. If you don’t have the time or skill to make gifts yourself, you can find affordable homemade gifts at Etsy, an online site for hand-crafted items from over 200,000 sellers.
Chances are that other people in your gift circle have the same problems, and you can join together to come up with solutions that benefit everyone. Large families or groups of friends can draw names so each person has to buy just one gift for another person in the group. Agree on a spending range, such as limiting the gift to $10–$20 per person, and perhaps a theme, such as household items or décor, and stick to it.
Another possibility is to join together with family members or friends and instead of buying gifts, make a donation to charity and help those who are less fortunate. You can find opportunities for online giving at Oxfam International and ACCION.
Holidays are a wonderful time to entertain, but find ways to do it on a budget. Check supermarket flyers, buy items on sale, and make as much as you can by yourself.
Many retailers also offer credit/debit cards featuring deep discounts for new applicants and existing cardholders. However, if you’ve had trouble in the past managing credit card debt, pay cash. Don’t get pressured into opening new credit cards and over-extending your credit just to save a few dollars.
The experienced Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer know it can be hard to budget for the holidays, but we have helped many people struggling with financial issues. To learn more about how our firm can be of assistance, call one of our conveniently located office branches at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati) or email for your free consultation so we can determine what solutions will work best for you.