Steps to Prep for Christmas….Already

October 11, 2016


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. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Consumerism of Christmas and How We Can Use It Well (part 2)

November 10, 2015

It happened again today. I was out and about and heard Christmas songs coming over the store speakers. Somewhere a turkey shed a tear about it. Poor, poor Thanksgiving turkeys. But, to make the most of the situation, I posted the first half of this blog last week. As much as we need to give Thanksgiving its due before it is run over by Christmas, we can use the early onset of the holiday to get us ready for all of the spending that is Christmas. Click here if you haven’t read Part 1 of this blog, and then continue on for more.

What To Do About the Christmas Spending?

Make a List – Write down every last person and their dog paper & pencilthat you may need to buy a present for. If the number isn’t shocking enough, write an expected gift price next to each recipient and add that up. Then make a list of all of your other expenses as listed above, remembering ‘Gifts’ was only one of five areas I listed. Total it all up and if the amount is overwhelming to you, adjust the individual amounts accordingly to make it manageable for you. Then, when shopping, stick to the list and only the list.

Update the Budget – I’m not talking about your specifically-Christmas budget here. This is your general living budget. How much do you have coming in? How much is going out in all of the normal living expenses like housing, utilities, groceries, etc.? Subtract those expenses from your income and see how much you actually have left over to spend. If your Christmas budget is over your excess money, you now need to decide where the extra money is coming from (please do not forgo rent or mortgage payment to fund Christmas, because it really has happened). You are either going to have to lower your Christmas budget, raid the savings account you have been so good about building up, or put it all on plastic (which means you just pay more later).

Manage Your Credit – Speaking of plastic, do you have a plan for that loan you just took out when you swiped the credit card? I’m not necessarily against using credit cards. I just want people to use them with full awareness and a plan. How long is it going to take you to pay it off? How much extra will it cost you in interest? We’ve done the math on minimum payments on $2,000 of credit card debt and how long it takes to pay it off making minimum payments. I won’t scare you here with the numbers, but think ‘longer than a house’. Better to have a plan than be hog-tied to your credit card bills for the next several years.

Think Creative – Sure, everyone talks about the ‘creative’ gift giving of homemade gifts. Some of them really are good gifts, like a quilt from Grandma. But I won’t belabor that knife-edge subject any further. Instead, be creative in your other Christmas budget items. Do you really need to provide all of the food for 50 people? I’m a Lutheran from the Midwest and let me tell you, there is nothing like a good potluck meal. Why not give your family members the privilege of sharing their best culinary masterpieces? Going to the same place? Pack a little lighter and carpool. If you can shrink a caravan of three vehicles to two, you could well end up in the vehicle without the sugar-overdosed munchkins. Decorating? You would be surprised how many decorations are deemed ‘Christmas’ only by their packaging. The colors and styles may be used year-round by decorations from another season. Reuse them and I won’t tell if you won’t.

nativityPrioritize – What is Christmas really about for you? This blog is actually part two of what was originally a standalone blog post. Yep – that wordy. But at this point I am going to stop talking (figuratively, of course) and use my best creative writing skills to encourage you to take a moment to ruminate and truly consider your priorities for observing Christmas. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Funny how we get so distracted by all of the other ‘shtuff’, isn’t it? Much like prioritizing where our money goes, prioritizing everything else can help keep the budget in check as well. Recently I drove my son out of town after dark just to look at the stars. We found a field approach to park in and spent time just looking at the stars, the Milky Way, airplanes, and constellations. It was a single gallon of gas to get there and back. There was no admission, no souvenirs, no super-size snack value packs, or anything else to spend money on. Yet it was a big enough deal that, as he crawled into bed that night, he thanked me for TAKING THE TIME to take him out to look at the stars. Sometimes kids are really good at speaking the truth.

I recently saw a Facebook post that one of my friends was nearly done Christmas shopping already. OK. I can deal with that. But if your own shopping is overwhelming you, or even the thought of any extra holiday expense, come in to see a counselor at the Center for Financial Resources. We don’t judge. We aren’t humbugs. We just want to help you get your finances in a condition that they won’t ruin the holidays for you. You can schedule on our website, or call us at 605-330-2700.

Be ready for Christmas, but for the sake of the turkeys (and a lot of other reasons), don’t forget Thanksgiving.

written by Breck Miller
images courtesy

On the Consumerism of Christmas and How We Can Use It Well (part 1)

November 4, 2015

I have to admit, I threw a bit of a fit the other day when I walked into the office. There, hanging around the LSS logo on the wall, were several snowflakes and a Christmas stocking. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Let the turkey have his day and let’s get through Thanksgiving first! Now, in all fairness, the decorations were only up for a photo shoot and have since come down (I think, I threatened to not even look that direction if they were still up).

As much as we Thanksgiving-loyalists dislike it, you don’t have to look very far at all to see the impending invasion of red and green glitz and gaudiness. It’s coming. We can’t change it. It just bothers me that, much like the presidential campaigning, it all seems to be happening earlier and earlier every time it comes around. Read the rest of this entry »

100 Degree Christmas

July 24, 2015

Originally published 7/2014, we decided this is a good one to bring back today.  Enjoy!

According to the weather reports, today is supposed to have a heat index of over 100 degrees. Perhaps you like this ridiculously hot weather, but it is not for me. As for the summer, I love highs in the upper 70’s, maybe breaking 80 on the hot days. Days like today just make me want to sing. No, not sing for joy. Today you just might hear me singing “I’m dreaming…..of a white…..Christmas”. There might even be a little Bing Crosby flavor in there. But that’s usually the point my wife rolls her eyes at me. Read the rest of this entry »

The $100 Week-Long Vacation

April 30, 2015


As the end of school approaches, my wife and I have started planning for the summer.  Having already taken a big trip, we aren’t really planning on any trips other than a couple of family reunions in the area.  None the less, we have some vacation time to use.  So what to do, what to do?  As we both look at taking vacation the week of July 4th, I think I have a week of vacation traveling planned for a mere $100.  Read the rest of this entry »


December 22, 2014

Despite all that we preach and teach here at the Center for Financial resources, as we travel the final approach to Christmas I have one thing to say. In my best (and not that great) Brooklyn-Italian accent, I’ll leave this year off with a big “Fuhgeddaboudit!” (For those needing a Mid-West translation, that’s a slurred together ‘forget about it’.) Read the rest of this entry »

A Pile of ‘The Unexpected’

December 16, 2014

December. It’s when those good American folk out there go crazy with the shopping and spending of money all in the name of holiday cheer. Things can get a little tight financially speaking, but it’s OK because it’s for a good cause, right? So what do you do when life drops a big steaming pile of ‘the unexpected’ on top of it all? Well, let me tell you…. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Holiday Donations? Don’t Get Scrooged!

November 24, 2014

‘Tis the season. Black Friday is coming. The advertisements are already in our faces. We are at least collecting Christmas lists if not already shopping. ‘Tis the season of giving. Most of us will be giving presents to our significant others, our kids, our extended family, our friends, our kids’ teachers or daycare providers, the neighbors, and yes, possibly even the neighbors’ dog (I’ve seen it happen). Read the rest of this entry »

How Not To Be A Christmas Shopping Ding-A-Ling

November 3, 2014

Have you heard them yet? They are out there already. You won’t hear themChristmas Bell a lot yet, but they are there. Often they are in the background, dominated by some other message of “You need this” or “Your kids want that”. But if you listen closely, you will hear them. It’s the twinkling of silver bells, jingle bells, sleigh bells, or whatever else you want to call them. Perhaps the better description is “the harbinger of all shopping madness that precedes the sacred holiday”. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello Holiday!!!

May 23, 2014

Memorial Day. The official start to Summer 2014. And for once it sounds like it should be a Imagebeautiful weekend (no guarantee in South Dakota). Like so many people, we have plans for the weekend – hang out with my nephew (I guess my sister and brother-in-law too), swim, maybe some hiking or fishing. Who knows?

So what are your plans? Going somewhere? Attending an event? How about some great bbq? So many options for a long weekend. Read the rest of this entry »

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