December 12, 2011

Category: Money Management

Straight Talk: Don’t be Enslaved by the Holiday Season

Happy Holidays!  The holiday season is in full form as we speak and I am sure you are feeling the expenses of the season. American holiday spending is a source of much discussion especially because the research suggests that Americans will spend $712 on Christmas gifts this year which is almost the same - $715 - estimated for Christmas at this time last year.

2011 Spending Forecast The graph below was released by Gallup and shows how spending is comparatively less than in 2006-2007 timeframe which is not surprising based on how the US economy has shifted.

 The facts 

Perhaps the most disturbing question is why an overwhelming number of Americans go into debt for the holiday season. The Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll found that over 13 million Americans are still dealing with debt from last season. And in all reality, holiday expenses add up to much more than just gift shopping – one must add in the added features of food, travel and much more to the eventual layout. 

As with anything else, why create debt for the holidays? There are many ways to keep the sanity during the holidays and here is how: 

  Plan early – if holiday travel is part of the plan, this expense must be budgeted early in the year and deals can be found with planning ahead.  Create a holiday account so that you save ahead and use funds from that account so that you make sure no debt is incurred. 

  Budget realistically – To make sure you know what is realistic, budget in advance and stick to the budget.

  Prioritize wisely – If travel is a definite on your list and a large expense, then the budgeting should juggle accordingly. For example, if your budget is $1000 and travel makes up $500, then gift giving needs to be a lower priority with defined limits. 

  Track responsibly– To stay within your budget, it is suggested to use cash as much as possible to stay on track. Being conscious about staying within budget for the holidays allows you to usher in the New Year without the added stress and strain of many unnecessary bills pending to be paid.  Make a resolution to be charitable to your own finances!