Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Common Sense Approach to the Christmas Holiday Spending Dilemma

Rosemarie Boyd, CFP

A Common Sense Approach to the Christmas Holiday Spending Dilemma

This is the time of year that most of us go into a “feeding frenzy” to make sure that we buy our loved ones everything they could possibly want for Christmas!  It is a time when people, instead of being mellow and enjoying the holidays, become significantly more stressed.  Depression sets in because we know we are spending way beyond our means and can’t see very clearly how we will be able to repay the debt we accumulate as we approach Christmas.

The scene for this chaos is set shortly before Halloween.  If you go to the store on Halloween and try to find anything related to Halloween, you find that this holiday has been relegated to a very tiny corner of the store.  In its previous place of honor, we now find…You guessed it!  CHRISTMAS!  To make matters worse, the Christmas music has already started to play and we have barely finished Halloween.   As we move slowly toward Thanksgiving, the intensity for Christmas shopping increases.  The ads shout at us “Bargains, 40% discounts, 2 for the price of one!”  But wait, the incredible marketing machine urging the consumer to buy, sweetens the pot!  Maybe we should wait for “Black Friday” or, wait, I think stores are opening Thanksgiving morning!   Who needs a turkey anyway!!

As this mania continues, we miss all the blessings of the holidays.  Thanksgiving to me is probably the best holiday of the year, at least it used to be.  It should be a time for family gathering around the turkey.  It should be the least stressful of all the holidays.  But it is not!  Consumerism is forcing people to work on the holiday and the rest of us feel guilty unless we are out looking for a bargain.  Here are some humble suggestions from us to you:

1.  Remember the purpose of the holidays and try to honor that purpose.  Nothing is lost if you don’t participate in the “feeding frenzy” of the mob!  Believe me, there will be plenty of bargains after Thanksgiving Day.  Relax and spend the day with your family.  Catch up with the lives of your children.  Help your family create wonderful memories.

2. As you contemplate Christmas shopping, be thoughtful.  Think about what would be a meaningful gift for the people for whom you buy.  If you have small children, check their toys.  Do they really need another Minion?  If your children have lots of toys, but you want the enjoyment of shopping and finding just the right toy to light up their eyes on Christmas morning, clean out some of the old toys.  Donate them to children who have no toys at all.

3. If you are a grandparent, maybe your grandchildren and your children would be just as happy if you were able to supplement some of the expenses of kid sports or dancing lessons.
4. Plan a budget for spending for Christmas.  This is a budget which should have a separate category for gifts as well as a category for other related Christmas expenses, such as food, the tree, parties which you may have planned, etc.  STICK TO THE BUDGET!!

5. Develop a plan as to how you will pay for everything.  Ideally, your budget would be such that you would be able to pay with cash.  If, however, you are planning to charge some of these expenses, make sure that you develop a plan, in advance, as to how you will pay down your charges and over what period of time. STICK TO THIS PLAN AS WELL.

6. Think about what you could give which would not cost a lot of money.  Offering your time to help out with something is a great way to give an elderly person a very meaningful gift.  In

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