Have a Financially Savvy Holiday Season

By Kyra Morris, contributing editor | As our bellies are now full from a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, it’s now time to consider emptying the wallet for the holidays. At least that is what retailers would like for you to do. The holiday season and shopping are often directly correlated. Instead of the joy of the season, we often experience the stress of the season.

00.morrisHere are some ideas that may help you through with your sanity intact and a little extra in your wallet.

Make a list: Consider all the people you want to remember – family, friends, teachers, colleagues. For different groups set a dollar limit – for example $10 to $15 maximum for teachers and colleagues, or for someone special, but not immediate family, up to $50. Create the list and add up the dollars. Then consider the ancillary items that often are forgotten – food, beverage and home decorations. Are you going to entertain, or are you going to others and be part of their celebrations? What will this entail? These ancillary items may be kept on a separate page, but writing down your ideas will help you stay focused.

Being crafty: Often people simply enjoy time together. Invite people over to make simple decorations. When my children were younger, I had a lot of their friends and parents over. We used prior years’ holiday cards to make decorations. It took scissors, tape, glue, glitter, and colored yarn. There are all kinds of twists on this idea – like cookie decorating, stringing popcorn or paper chains. The key is to keep it simple. Do not get too complex with the craft. Yet if this works for you, it’s a way to engage several people on your list, encourage friendships, and create and long lasting memories.

Create a budget: From the list you created, add everything up. If you’re traveling, then travel costs may also come into the picture. If the final amount is acceptable, then you’ve got your plan. If you need to tweak it to get it down a little, then do it. The thought you put in ahead of time will help you later when you’re actually shopping or implementing. With a budget or pre-thought plan, it may be easier to avoid the temptations of all the purchasing power at your fingertips on your mobile device.

Use online shopping wisely: Once you have your list, the Internet can be a helpful tool for researching ideas. You are quickly able to read reviews and compare pricing. Some of the perks of actually buying online are no crowds and checkout lines, and many are offering free gift wrapping and shipping.

Gift cards or cash: For the hard-to-please or hard-to-shop-for folks, a gift card to a favorite store may be a way to take care of them and easily stay within your budget. Cash is also another way to give them the freedom of getting whatever they want from wherever they want. Cash also has no expiration date.

Charitable donations: Give a gift to your favorite charities in honor of your special people. You can get them more involved also by using online sites like DonorsChoose. This way your honoree actually chooses the organization and project(s) where they would like to make contributions. You provide them with the funds. Another simple way is to ask them what their favorite charity is and let them know that this is how you’d like to recognize them. This gift exemplifies the true meaning of this holiday season. You can recognize the people you care about, engage them with the choices, and do good in the world all at the same time. If I mention you also get a tax deduction, it tends to take away from all the other goodness, but yes, you do get a tax deduction if you use a 501c(3) charitable organization.

Start early: Create your list, your plan and your budget early. Shopping is less hectic, selections are better and finishing early has its rewards. You can enjoy more time being with the people you care about, sharing your holiday fare in the comfort of your choice. A little planning can go a long way. Your time and resources can be used wisely, making the season one to enjoy.