by, State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt
Summer is finally in full swing! Like most, you have been enjoying the outdoors as much as you can, but now is also the perfect time to think about Christmas. That's right Christmas! Or should I say your Christmas budget? Those non-planners do not want to be in the same position as last year; when the calendar turns to December 1st, and we haven't given a thought to how we will afford the things we want to do this holiday season. Parties, charitable giving, travel, decorations, and gifts; the amount of money we spend in December can add up quickly. Preparation is the key. So instead of relying on credit this year, make a plan and use cash.
While we continue to enjoy the summer fun, take a few minutes to layout your holiday plan. Here are a few tips that will help you prepare.
First, put together a budget. Sit down and compile a list, start with those you would like to give a gift and how much you can afford to spend. Travel plans, year-end charitable giving, and those work parties should also be included. Once you have a realistic idea of your expenses, you can now put together a plan.
Next, start a savings account for the holidays. We have approximately 23 weeks until Christmas, divide your entire holiday budget by 23. That's what you will want to set aside into your account each week. If that amount does not seem workable, it is time to adjust your budget. Cut back on the number of gifts, how much you spend on each person, travel, or charitable donations.
Another tip is to review the list of people you buy gifts for, are there gifts you can buy now and store until Christmas? Spreading out your gift purchases can save a lot of last-minute overspending and stress.
Third, look at your travel plans, can you book airfare tickets earlier to save on the last-minute holiday travel rush? Can you be flexible with your travel dates? These options can save on your airfare?
Finally, something I learned years ago, the things I thought were necessary for that "perfect" Christmas holiday was not as essential as I thought. I asked my family to answer the following. It wouldn't be Christmas without 1. 2. and 3. What I learned from that exercise changed everything. It wasn't the number of gifts under the tree; it wasn't the number of parties we attended, and it wasn't the decoration in the house. It was our time together, attending church as a family, their favorite holiday cookie and "Mom, don't mess with the Christmas Day menu."