The holidays may be months away, but preparing for them now could be key to having a stress-free, debt-free season of giving.
“Think back to last November and December. Try to recall if you had any buyer’s remorse throughout the course of the spending season,” said Joe Buhrmann, manager of financial security at COUNTRY Financial®. “If you tacked on unexpected expenses to your debit or credit card or veered from your shopping list, a little early planning could go a long way toward keeping you on track this year.”
What can be even more swaying is the stress of last-minute holiday shopping and the guilt associated with the feeling of not having bought “enough” for our friends and loves ones. People often get the urge to buy and spend more as a way to show loved ones how much they care. This pressure to buy can make even the most steadfast budget crumble like Christmas cookies.
“The feeling of guilt and impulsive spending are common during the spirit of giving. We don’t plan on having a last minute urge to buy, but we can fall into this money trap every time we’re not on guard or prepared,” said Buhrmann.
Planning for holiday purchases now is sure to keep you in check come Christmas. But, if you’re not currently thinking about how you’ll swing the extra spending this holiday shopping season, consider these suggestions.
Five ways to prepare for the season of giving:
- Find extra income. If you find yourself spending more than you make every December – why not work ahead to stash some cash for Christmas? You can do this by selling some of your old or unused items online or through a yard sale. Also, consider picking up a part-time job or sign up for seasonal work for the sole purpose of squirreling away money for the holidays.
- Steer clear of credit. If you’re short on money this summer and struggling to make ends meet, why not take a hiatus from your credit cards? What better way to get financially fit in time to prepare for increased spending? Use the coming months to pay down credit card debt, set money aside or follow an envelope system to restrict your spending. Then when Hanukah hits you could be in a better financial position to take on the added burden.
- Buy gifts now. It may seem odd, but you could easily start buying out of season items and pack them away until winter. It’s fairly easy to find sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, pants and other winter wear on crowded clearance racks. Why not buy some of these items now at a low price and gift them come Christmas? They’ll still be new with tags and no one will suspect you bought the pieces months in advance and stocked them away for a while.
- Stick to your list. The holiday season is a time of overstocked racks and end caps. It may seem tempting to just buy anything and everything right there on the spot, but if you draw up a list of items in need weeks to months in advance, you can better discover the discipline to stick to the well thought out items you jotted down. Plus, by sticking to previously contemplated gifts, you’ll be able to save yourself money and invaluable time that could be better spent with friends and loves ones.
- If you lack discipline, buy online. Once you know what you want to buy, look online for the best prices possible. Meandering through stores without a clear idea of what you want is a dangerous game to play if you lack self-control. If you don’t have strong boundaries and the ability to say ‘no’ to spending, you could easily give into temptation. Why not shop online and limit your distractions through direct searches and nothing more?
“The holiday season is a time for giving, but it shouldn’t be a time for excess spending and accumulating debt,” Buhrmann said. “Set clear expectations with yourself and be truthful about what you can and can’t afford. Creating a responsible spending plan and sticking to it will make you more financially fit heading into the new year.”
About the COUNTRY Financial® group
The COUNTRY Financial group (www.countryfinancial.com) serves about one million households and businesses throughout the United States and offers a full range of financial products and services from auto, home, business, farm and life insurance to retirement planning services, investment management and annuities.