It can also be a very stressful time of year. The focus has become retail. We spend our time fretting about the 'perfect gift', the 'perfect meal', the 'perfect ensamble' for the brigade or unit party. All of this when we should instead be focusing on what the holiday is about. We have found joy in spending, getting the biggest, best, most luxurious. The worst of it: the stress lasts well into the new year when we overspend, don't budget and simply spend on impulse instead of planning.
Want some simple tips on taking a bit of the stress away?
Elaine Wilson of the Family Matters Blog suggests setting expectations with family, making homemade gifts, keeping it simple, and using your credit card wisely. (Family Matters Blog: Blogger Shares Holiday Money-saving Tips)
We have set these expectations with our own children. We have four boys and Christmases of past left us with lots of plastic from China, bags of wrapping paper for the recycler, and bills well into April even May. Last year Santa Claus brought them each three gifts, just like The Three Wise Men. This new tradition for the Kocsis Crew went over surprisingly well. The expectation was set. The room for disappointment was minimized.
After expectations are set, set a budget. Make lists, who is going to get gifts, how much are you going to spend. What about travel expenses? Decoration expenses? Entertainment expenses? Know how much the holiday season is going to cost your family. If you are a USAA bank member you can use their budget program online: "USAA® Money Manager makes the process painless. Just log on to usaa.com and visit My Account Tools. The work is already done for you, with a prefilled budget based on your spending habits that you can customize easily to fit your needs." (Budget Better) If you don't use USAA, find out what your bank has to offer. Make your budget something you can follow or it will fail. When you set a budget you know what to expect. There is less shopper's-remorse and more joy in the gift-giving.
|USAA offers this advice: "This is a society that has become great at blurring the line between needs and wants. Successful cash flow management is about separating the two, thoroughly scrutinizing the wants and finding opportunities to cut back spending." Budgeting Basics: Needs vs. Wants|
Military Saves reminds us that "a lack of planning can set you back financially and cause undue stress through the holiday season. Have a reality check with your money and plan accordingly before the temptation to overspend is here in full force. Who wants to be spending for Christmas in April? So before the holidays and all the "emergencies" in between, sit down and write down a separate plan for your holiday money and commit to sticking with it."
So pour yourself a cup of tea, find a notebook to get yourself organized, and start planning!
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com