Stress-Free Holidays: Watch Your Spending

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Marillet via Flicker

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Marillet via Flicker

This might be the year that you decide to spend a little (or a lot) more on holiday gift giving. Maybe finances are looking a bit better after a long period of struggle. But before you break the bank, ask yourself a few questions:

Is your home paid for? Is your car paid for? Do you have adequate savings if you lose your job? Have you paid off all your credit cards and loans?

If the answer to any of these is no, then this isn’t the year to spend wildly on gifts.

Create a budget before you spend a single dollar. But before you create that budget, decide what’s really important to you.

For some, it’s a big holiday dinner with dozens of friends and relatives in attendance. If so, have everyone bring a dish, but count on providing the majority of the meal yourself. Make your lists and start shopping the weekly grocery ads. Stock up when items go on sale. While not everything can be bought in advance, many things can be: canned goods, frozen foods and packaged mixes. Don’t forget the extras that always come with entertaining: carpet cleaning services, new linens if you’ll have out-of-town guests, a quick coat of paint in the living room. Don’t get caught at the end with bigger expenses than you’d planned because you left something off the list.

If you have young children, chances are the sparkle in their eyes as they open gifts is most important to you. If they watch a lot of children’s TV shows, this is a good time to limit TV and keep them away from the ads. Look for timeless toys that require kid power, not batteries. Watch the ads for sales, and look for nearly new toys in charity shops.

If you typically swap gifts with adult members of the family at a distance, make this the year you stop. Get an agreement to cut back and no longer send gifts for the adults — they’ll probably be relieved.

If you have a computer spreadsheet program, it will help keep your expenses realistic. Start with the cash you actually have to spend without using credit cards and without putting your other financial obligations in jeopardy. Make columns for budget and actual costs, and update the figures as you go along.

Make this a stress-free holiday season by not overspending.

 BY David Uffington

 (c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.