By Heather Short
With summer now at an end, fall is in full swing with pumpkin spice flavored everything now available. Pumpkins adorn porches as many people ecstatically embrace the sweater season. Many people will be thinking about football, finger foods, and even Halloween costumes. Then before you know it, Thanksgiving is upon us followed by Christmas and Hanukkah. Once the whirlwind of those holidays is over, we will all be ringing in the New Year; a chance to start fresh.
One thing perhaps not everyone is thinking about is setting a holiday budget. The next few months are full of holidays that many of us love to go all out decorating for and many of those holidays also involve gift giving. But while the holidays are a cheerful, celebratory time, it is also important to set a budget early and stick with it before you end up in financial regret come January 1.
Setting a budget doesn’t seem like a fun thing to do but is truly is important. One of the first things that adults should do is sit down, look over their income, be aware of what is going out as far as paying monthly obligations, and then create a budget.
Nick Meriwether, a Chartered Financial Consultant at the Financial Planning Center in Clarksville, says it is important to live within your means.
“You should really sit down and plan a budget and live by it,” Meriwether says. “Staying within your personal budget will be less stressful on you.”
Once you create a budget, there are other ways to cut down on financial stress around the holidays. One great way is to start holiday gift buying early. There are many in store and online sales before the holiday rush. Make your check list and start buying weeks or even months in advance. This will help cut down on the last minute buying crunch and spending more money than necessary.
“Layaway is a great option for those who shop early,” Meriwether says.
This option gives families the opportunity to pay toward an overall cost over the course of several weeks versus paying in full at one time. This also helps people avoid the temptation to put purchases on a credit card or even opening a new credit card in order to make holiday purchases. Credit cards can take months or even years to completely pay off. With many credit cards having sky-high interest rates, it can end up costing consumers more to eventually pay off.
Another great way to plan holiday shopping is to compare prices online. Many websites offer free shipping or site-to-store shipping for free pick up. Shopping online gives consumers the ability to search for the same product at many different stores in order to get the best price.
“Often time, there are better prices online,” Meriwether says.
Being a smart consumer means paying the best possible price.
With over 35 years of experience under his belt, Meriwether says the No. 1 way to tackle holiday budgeting is to have good communication.
“Be on the same page as your spouse or your family,” he says.
Set aside time to plan what you want to purchase and, again, create a budget. By doing this and sticking to it, it will cut down on the overspending and financial stress.
The holidays are a time to enjoy each other’s company, get into a festive spirit and celebrate together. Remember, gifts do not need to be expensive to be meaningful. Starting early, creating a budget and sticking to it will help ensure that there is less financial stress and more time to enjoy the holiday season with the ones you love.
By Heather Short