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Plan For The Holidays

The holidays are such a wonderful time of year, and one that you don’t want to ruin with buyer’s remorse. Planning ahead and keeping your spending in check are the keys to financial happiness during the holidays and beyond. 

Preparing

A budget can help you big-time during the holiday season (as well as the rest of the year). When you prepare your holiday budget, first determine what you’d like your total gift- and entertainment-spend to be. Factor-in a little wiggle room—maybe 10-15%—just in case you spend slightly more than you planned on a few gifts or you have more guests than you originally thought. Next, create a list of who you want to give gifts and how much you’d like to spend on those gifts, and then adjust accordingly until you hit your budget. It might feel like you’re taking from one person to give to another, but try to keep in mind that it truly is the thought that counts. Often, a more thoughtful—but less expensive—gift is just as appreciated, or even more appreciated, than a larger-ticket item. To plan your entertainment dollars, there’s a handy online calculator that can help.

Wreath Hanging On Front DoorIf you have less this time around than you’d like, consider a less painful way to save throughout the year. Rivermark’s Holiday and Tax account is a great way to save slowly, because you can transfer funds immediately each payday. Plus, you’re less likely to use those funds for other purposes because the funds become freely available during specific timeframes (March 15th to April 15th and November 1st to December 15th). If you can afford just $50 a month, you will save $600 in a year—that’s a nice sum to have on-hand for gift giving and entertaining.

As an alternative, you can open a savings account and give it your own name. By naming the account, you’ll be less likely to dip into the funds unless absolutely necessary. After all, you won’t just be spending dollars; you’ll be spending ‘Holiday Gifts’ dollars.

Managing Costs

If you’re feeling the pinch, or are just looking for ways to reduce your costs, there are plenty of strategies you can employ to save a little money.

Do it yourself: If you have the time and inclination, a gift you make yourself is a great option. You’ll save money, and the recipients will certainly appreciate the thought and effort. There are plenty of resources for ideas and how-to’s on the internet, like Pinterest or Tip Junkie.

Pool your resources: This can mean getting together with other folks to pool funds for a larger gift, or choosing to create a gift lottery for extended family instead of giving gifts to each member. This way, you’ll have the resources to splurge a bit more than you would if you spread your funds across the entire family.

Entertain for less: If your house is the destination for holiday get-togethers, all the food and drink can add up quickly. Consider changing the rules a bit this time around so that each guest brings a dish to pass or drinks to share. It will reduce your expenses, and could improve the ‘spread’ you have available, since everyone will create something special to share which might be more than you have the time to prepare yourself.

Footing the Bill

Once you’ve set aside your budget, you’ll have to figure out how to pay for everything on your list. If you’ve set aside funds, great! If not, there are still options. If you have one or more loan payments, you can skip those payments for a month to free-up that cash for gift-giving. Once you apply and pay a small fee, you’ll be free from those loan payments until the next billing cycle. You can also apply for a low-rate credit card or a personal loan, which will help you spread payments out over a longer period of time if needed.

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