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Get to Know Me Monday #5 - Financial tips for the Holidays

Today I am talking about financial tips for holiday shopping. With anticipated shortages and shipping delays, it is a good year to start your Christmas shopping now. It is easy to go overboard when shopping for loved ones for Christmas, but it is important to stay within a budget so that you don’t derail your other financial goals. Now is not the time to incur or increase credit card debt or delay retirement savings or college savings for yet another few months.

Start with an overall total of what you can afford to spend for gifts this year. The past year or two have been a financial struggle for many, so it may be time to trim the total of what  you normally give.  Once you have established the total you will spend for the holidays, break that amount down into categories, such as the holiday meal, additional baking (cookies, candy, parties, baked goods as gifts), and gifts.

Once you have established the amount you will spend on gifts, and allocated that amount among the recipients, you can start to list ideas of items for them within the price range and start looking for the best prices.  The internet is a great way to comparison price shop before going to the brick-and-mortar stores, but only purchase items online from legitimate websites or companies that you’ve heard of.  Consider shopping local, something from a local market, winery, coffee shop, candy store or other local vendor can be a thoughtful gift, make a lasting impression and help support a small business.   Downtown Lancaster  and throughout Fairfield County, there are many local retailers and unique shops that can help you check off items on your Christmas list. Make sure those credit card purchases don’t exceed the amount you can pay off with in the month so that you are not hit with high interest charges or late fees.  Keep a list (or spreadsheet – because that’s what accountants do) to track prices, items purchased, ordered, and delivered. Be sure to review those credit card bills to make sure there aren’t any fraudulent charges.

If you purchase gifts online, track their delivery.  Take precautions to make sure items delivered when you aren’t home aren’t stolen.  Have items delivered to your office instead of home.  Consider having items shipped to the store for pickup (this may save on shipping charges as well). 

Think of items you can give that may not cost much monetarily, but a gift that you can create or something that you can do with them or for them over the holidays.  Often the gift of time is treasured more than an item purchased at a store. A handwritten letter of special memories or a note of thanks will be treasured.

Start purchasing items now for baking or for your holiday meal that will keep, as often popular items may be missing from the store shelves. However, please don’t hoard the items, as others need them too! 

With all that has happened during this pandemic, people understand that holidays may look different.  Most are thankful to be able to spend some time safely together, and that presence is more important than presents. 

Try to relax and enjoy the holidays, celebrating safely with family and friends. Don’t stress over finding the perfect gift or exceed your budget for the perfect item.  If the item can’t be delivered until after Christmas, wrap an empty box with a note saying your gift will be coming soon and a picture of the gift (yes, I’ve done this before).    

Create some great memories this season, whether it’s baking together with family, going to a Christmas concert (many schools and colleges have holiday concerts for free or little cost), driving around town to see Christmas lights, or watching Christmas movies together at home. There are many things you can do to celebrate the holidays and stay within your budget.

Next week I’ll be talking about estate planning documents.

If you have a topic you’d like me to discuss, please let me know.

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