It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….
Every where you go….
Take a look in the five-and-ten….
Glistening once again….
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow….
Sorry to do it to you so early, but you know you didn’t just read the words. Come on, admit it, you were singing along. And now I’ll agree as we both argue, “IT’S WAY TOO EARLY!” But it’s coming and you can’t deny it. The other argument I’m going to make is that you may not want to deny it. Rather, embrace it. Embrace it now.
On a recent trip through our local big-box retailer, the lawn and garden section has been almost completely overrun by Christmas paraphernalia. And I’m still mowing my lawn. I guess that’s the way the retail world works now. Not all the time, though. There was a photo going around social media that Nordstrom’s wasn’t going to decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I can appreciate the sentiment of celebrating one holiday at a time.
The Christmas argument I’m going to make here is not a celebration one, but rather a preparation one. Think about all of the plans to be made, the traveling to be done, the events to host and attend. Think about all the stuff to buy.
And there’s my point. My focus isn’t on the buying so much as the THINKING. Thinking becomes planning. And there’s a lot to think about.
- How many people are you going to be buying gifts for?
- How much are you going to spend on each person?
- Do you have any idea what to even buy?
- How about decorations? Are you nostalgic and use the same ones from your childhood or are you going to be following an all new theme this year?
- Will you be prepping large meals for family? That ain’t cheap.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against any of the above actions. I am also NOT a big fan of going into debt for the sake of celebration. I just don’t think that’s what Christmas or any other holiday is about. In order to avoid the credit card debt that so often happens due to the holidays, try planning ahead.
- Before you get emotional over the sentiment of a purchase, what can you really afford to spend?
- Can you buy anything now when it is on sale rather than last minute at a premium?
- Can you either spend or save a little each week or month between Christmas and now to spread out the cost?
- Who can you work with and cost-share on things like meals or traveling?
There is one more question that I want you to ask yourself. The reality is that we all need motivation. There’s usually a reason behind what we do, even if we don’t want to admit it. So here is the question to provide motivation for maintaining your holiday budget:
What are you risking or giving up for the sake of holiday spending?
For many of us, we aren’t really risking anything and certainly aren’t going to have to change any other behaviors. But 60% of us are already spending as much or more than we make. Many of us might be making a choice between holiday spending and paying utilities, buying daily food, or even paying for housing.
This isn’t a statement about any one item being bad. It’s just that sometimes we need to prioritize our spending. A little planning ahead can help you better do that. Is a Christmas gift really worth losing your home a few months down the road when the credit card bill comes due? Does your family really need that gift, or could they be happy with your time?
These aren’t questions we can answer here in a blog post. But by starting to think about them now, you can be ready, mentally and financially, for the spending season that is coming.
If you aren’t sure where to even start with that process, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources can help. We don’t make any decisions for you, but rather help you process the information towards your own best decision. You can either call us at 605-330-2700 or go online to schedule an appointment.
Take the celebrations one at a time, but it’s ok to start planning for the big ones now.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net