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'Tis the Season

December 08, 2017
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Shimmering lights glisten; the scent of evergreen so aromatic in the air.  With carols resonating everywhere you go, the little ones are full of joy anticipating Santa’s gift-filled sleigh on Christmas morning.  I absolutely love the festivity of the holidays and how uplifting it can be.  Many of us consider it the most wonderful time of the year, which it truly is…just not so much for our pockets. 

Did you know that in 2016, the average American spent over $900 on gifts during the holiday season?  Prior to last year, 2006 was the last time people spent that much, and after the 2008 recession, spending has been increasing ever since. With so many expenses to spread holiday cheer, we end up stressing over finances instead of actually being able to enjoy the season.  I have found it most helpful to implement strategies which lessen the pressure at the end of the year.

At the beginning of each year, it is ideal to determine who is on the shopping list and how much to budget for each person, allowing some flexibility that there may be others that you will want to gift to, come December.  In addition to gift purchases, based on the expenses you just incurred from the recent holidays, assess the costs for holiday travels, events, decorations, or any other miscellaneous expenditures which you realize add up to a heftier price tag.  Add these expenses to the budget also, so you have a clear picture of what you can expect for next year’s holiday season. 

Once you have determined a budget, the next step is setting forth a plan which allows you to spend moderately throughout the year, versus last minute when you are overwhelmed and may overspend.  There are a few good ways to achieve this goal and your best bet is to keep a spreadsheet so you can easily keep track and update your list.  For one, if anyone on your shopping list mentions something they want throughout the year, jot that down and purchase it earlier on.  Don’t wait until last minute to buy gifts.  Despite the big holiday sales, which contrary to popular belief, are not necessarily the best, one of the smartest shopping tips is to buy items off season. This means purchasing Fall-Winter goods in the Spring-Summer and vice versa.  Maybe a coat will catch your eye in July that you know will be perfect for your spouse and will make the best Christmas present ever; there is no such thing as too early!  On December 1st, you will be so pleased you bought that coat when you did. 

Perhaps you may choose to forego larger presents and gift a family vacation which everyone can enjoy together. Your smaller gifts or stocking stuffers can be purposeful for the vacation, such as a beach toys for the kids or a book about the destination.  Planning a trip in advance, you will find affordable travel deals and accommodations and this sort of gift will provide long lasting memories, which are far more valuable. 

I certainly enjoy making my place festive and bright after Thanksgiving and there is nothing quite like a great holiday party.  With Google and Pinterest at our fingertips, there are so many ways to find inspiration, create and host your own events, for a much lesser cost, of course.  Another trick of the trade is that holiday décor is always extra discounted just after the New Year which you can purchase and keep for the next season; you will save more than half the price. 

Once you have a clearer picture, it can really alleviate the anxiety by allowing you the comfort of time and planning to achieve a great end of the year.  Your wallets, credit cards and bank accounts will also thank you, as they will enter a new year much more stress-free.  I have learned from experience that the further ahead of time you plan, you will always save more time, energy, money and will achieve far more desirable end results.  Wishing everyone a wonderful ending to 2017 and hopefully you can try some of these methods starting in the upcoming new year.  Happy Holidays to all!