The holiday season is upon us and, for most of us, means an increase in our spending. It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of giving and celebrating and end up spending more than we should.
With a little advance planning, though, it’s possible to give and enjoy the holidays without taxing the family budget. The first step is to make a plan. Consider what you spent last year on gifts, decorations, clothes, wrapping paper, cards, special food, entertaining, and end-of-year gratuities. At the same time, look at the rest of your budget and estimate how much you can spend without going into debt. If you must charge, make sure you spend only what you will be able to pay off in January, or at the very latest, February.
While it’s difficult to do because of emotional ties or feelings of guilt, this may be the year to cut down on your holiday spending. Let people know you are trying to save money this year and so are making some changes in your holiday plans. Instead of exchanging gifts, initiate a discussion of alternate activities such as meeting for coffee or getting together for a potluck and an evening of board games. If a physical gift seems necessary, consider putting together a recipe box of typed family favorites or a scrapbook of old family pictures. The age-old suggestion of giving time or talent ‘coupons’ may also be appreciated.
For those who you will be purchasing gifts for, start by making a list and determining a price limit for each individual. Consider using the envelope method once you have set a budget for how much you plan on spending. Establish an amount to spend on each individual and place the appropriate amount of cash into an envelope. This will help you keep track of where your money is going and keep you from over-spending. If this idea seems a bit far-fetched to you, at least carry a list with you as you shop noting how much you can spend per person. Refer to the list before you reach the checkstand to make sure you are not spending too much.
Gifts that can be enjoyed by the entire family also can ultimately save money. For example, a family with several children might buy a DVD player or pool table which everyone will enjoy. While this can be a costly gift up front, it may end up cheaper than buying smaller individual presents.
Another cost saving idea is to check out which stores carry the items you’re looking for at the best prices before even leaving home. Use advertisements and ads to find the best prices. By using the internet before you ever leave home you will reduce stress, save time and transportation costs as well as shop at your convenience.
For more information on budgeting and consumer issues, contact KSU-River Valley Extension with offices in Belleville, Clay Center, Concordia and Washington.
For more Extension information and programming, listen to the River Valley Scoop radio programs by going to www.rivervalley.ksu.edu and selecting the River Valley Scoop agent radio program. K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.