Sun, May 27, 2018 09:05 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
Extension news

by Stephanie Derifield | Lawrence County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Science.

Celebrating holidays and other special occasions often causes families to expend large amounts of money and other resources. Having realistic holiday expectations can prevent a lot of problems. Gifts are not always a sign of love and caring. A family can have a memorable celebration without spending an exorbitant amount of money. Using your savvy and managing all available resources (your money, time, energy, talent, skill) can help you have a happy holiday and avoid overspending.

Its no wonder that celebrating the holidays eats into the family budget. Spending can get drastically out of control with gifts, greeting cards, postage, gift wrap, decoration, food, drink, transportation, long distance phone calls, and other purchases during the holidays. Overly enthusiastic spending can push a family into financial difficulty. The challenge of managing holiday spending is to enjoy the spirit of the occasions without paying for it months or even years later. Many people seriously underestimate what they spend each year for holidays and special occasions. Use some of the suggestions below to help you plan, use your resources, and avoid overspending.

Look at the big picture. The amount you spend may vary depending on family values, however it is unwise to spend more than 10 percent of your yearly income for holiday expenses. Spending at the last minute, or spending haphazardly without limits leads to overspending.

Spread costs for holidays and celebrations throughout the year. When it comes to holiday spending, some months are more expensive than others. Keep holiday expenses from interfering with your ability to make ends meet, especially in December, by setting aside an equal amount each month. For example, if you estimate that you spend $1,200 per year for holidays and celebrations, set aside $100 each month. Take out what you need for varying months throughout the year, setting aside the bulk of the money for months such as December when you might spend more.

Plan holiday spending. Once you know how much you can spend for the year, decide how the money will be used. Start by making a list of the holidays and special occasions you plan to celebrate. Determine how much of your holiday money you wish to spend for each special occasion, and dont forget to set aside money for unforeseeable occasions, such as baby showers, graduations, and housewarming. Keep in mind that its the thought that really counts.

Use credit wisely. If you use credit cards for holiday shopping, consider several factors to avoid over indebtedness. Charge only an amount that you can safely repay in a few months. If you have multiple credit cards, limit your charges to one card. This will help facilitate bill paying when the bill comes due, and will provide a clear picture of your spending. Evaluate your overall credit picture before shopping for the holidays. Trade cards with higher annual percentage rates and annual fees for cards that offer lower rates and no annual fees.

Shopping. Shop early for gifts that you purchase. Practice wise consumer strategies. Comparison shop. Compare price, quality, and warranties. Read labels and handtags. Watch for sales. Plan shopping by making a list, checking ads in newspapers and flyers, and shopping at stores that are in close proximity to one another to help you save time and energy.

Gifts. The best gifts dont always have the biggest price tag. They are fun or useful and chosen with the recipient in mind. Using your talent and skill to create gifts from your sewing room. craft corner, kitchen, or garden adds a special touch of love. A gift of time is the most precious gift. Why not start a gift shelf in your home? Throughout the year as you shop and find wonderful items on sale or as you create hand crafted items, place them on a shelf for use when you need a special gifts or to give for a holiday occasion. A gift shelf can save you shopping time and money.

Greeting cards. Its easy to have a large bill for the purchase of greeting cards and postage throughout the year. Consider these ideas. Look for ways to prune your list. Send cards to only out-of-town family and friends you are not likely to see on the holiday. Make your own greeting card, using blank cards and special stencils and stamps. You can avoid shopping trips and extra costs by purchasing a supply of greeting cards for all occasions from the discount card and party store.

Decorations. The best time to buy holiday decorations is after the holiday. Or better yet, look for a way, to make decorations or use the items you already have. Properly stored decorations can be used from year to year. To create new decorations look around your house for items that can be used to create a wreath, centerpiece, or decorate a tree. Use your imagination and talent to create a wonderful holiday atmosphere without spending a lot of money.

Entertainment. Social gatherings highlight holiday seasons as calendars fill with parties and activities. Consider co-hosting an event with another family member or co-worker to consolidate time, effort, and expense. For special events, evaluate the necessity of a meal. Consider appetizers or snacks instead. Also consider a potluck dinner as opposed to a lavish buffet.

Travel. Visiting family and friends can be an expensive part of holiday plans. Shop early for the best airfare. When estimating travel expense, include gasoline and car maintenance when driving and airfare when flying, as well as lodging, and meals.

Charitable Donations. Remembering the less fortunate is an important part of many holidays. Some families donate money to selected charities on behalf of other family members rather than buying gifts for one another. While a contribution of money is always appreciated, a donation of time is also valuable.

A realistic and affordable plan for spending your money and your tune should always be at the center of your holiday plans. Develop a plan and carry it out. Make your holidays a time for living, laughing, loving, sharing, caring, and learning. These are the things that money cant buy, but they make a precious, full, and abundant life.

Prepared by Joanne Bankston, Ph.D., State Specialist for Family Economic, and Management Kentucky State University.

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