Christmas on a budget: Planning ahead | Families
No, it can’t be! Are there really only eight Fridays left before the holiday season? How many paydays is that for you? That’s right folks. Pretty soon you will be seeing the holiday displays going up in the retail stores and will be lamenting that it is too soon. “It seems we just get through summer and back to school and we are quickly reminded that the holidays are fast approaching,” states Jana Castanon, spokesperson for Apprisen. “But, use this as an incentive to start thinking about how you are going to handle the upcoming expenses associated with this time of year.”
Based on the spending habits for last year, consumers spent an average of $770 per family for holiday expenses from October through December. According to the National Association for Retailers, approximately $75 was spent for costumes and candy for Halloween, $45 in additional food expenses for Thanksgiving and $650 during the holiday season. Is your pocketbook ready? Here is some advice to help you prepare for these upcoming expenses:
- It’s not too early to establish a holiday spending strategy. Determine how much you can afford to spend. To get a realistic amount, look back on what you spent last year. Was your budget able to support what you purchased or did you overspend and have to put some items on credit? This year, make it a goal to refrain from overusing credit to subsidize your expenses.
- Establish a budget. After you know how much you can afford to spend, determine what segments of the holidays are important to you and designate your money towards those areas. This will make it easier to cut back on the less important elements. Then decide how much are you going to allot for the different expenses - costumes, food, gifts, and decorations? Assign a dollar amount to each of these spending categories. Keep track of your spending in these areas. If you see that you are going over your budget, you can take some funds out of a different expense to cover the amount.
- Cut back on some of your everyday spending. You have already determined how much you are going to need to cover your expenses for the upcoming holidays. It is now time to figure out where you are going to get the extra cash. Examine where you are spending your money today. Are you eating out? What are you doing for entertainment? Forgo some of these activities and take the money that you would have been spending and put it in your holiday spending account. It is important that you have a special account, or even a holiday savings jar, so that this money is separated from your regular account and is used solely for holiday purchases.
- Use coupons. Coupons are a great way to save money. When you go shopping you can take the amount that you saved from using those coupons and put that in your holiday savings account.
- Shop early. It’s never too early to start buying the items that you are going to need. Look for the sales. But be careful, you might forget what you bought when the holiday finally comes around. Keep an itemized list of what you bought so you can refer back to it when needed.
Make it a goal to reduce your stress this holiday season. Have a plan to know how much you are going to spend and start saving now. You will be happy you did come January!
Apprisen, a national nonprofit credit counseling agency, has been helping consumers manage their finances and get out of debt for over 55 years. Certified counselors provide money management and debt counseling, HUD-approved housing counseling, and financial education. Services are provided in 10 states through local offices and nationally by phone or via the Internet. The oldest nonprofit credit counseling organization in the country, Apprisen was formerly known in its local communities as Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS). Accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), CCCS is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and AICCCA. Information is available 24/7. Call 800-355-2227 or visit the website, www.Apprisen.com. You can "like us" on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Apprisen and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Apprisen.
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