Trimming holiday spending
Holiday ads are plentiful, but not reason enough to spend.
"In the rush to shop, we sometimes lose sight of the rest of year, in which money will be needed to cover extras such as track shoes, summer camps, family reunion or other trips, unexpected car or home repairs, etc.," said Carol Young, K-State Research and Extension financial management specialist.
Before spending, Young encourages families and friends--all would-be shoppers--to:
1. Talk with family and friends about their expectations for the holidays.
When asked, family and friends often report that holiday foods (cookies or other recipes remembered from previous holidays) or other activities, rather than purchased gifts, will make for a happy holiday.
2. Does that mean the family and friends agree to skip gift-giving?
Many people will still want to exchange gifts and may elect to draw names or place a limit on the value of the gift to curb expenses. Families and friends also may choose to reduce spending to save for a vacation, attend a special event, or buy a new sofa.
Children may have a long list of wants, so the holidays can offer an opportunity to help them prioritize and to separate needs from wants.
Gifts need not be expensive, as children may enjoy one-on-one time with a parent or grandparent as their special day and the best gift of all.
Some families and work groups choose to limit gift giving and instead provide food and gifts for a less fortunate family or individuals. Young suggested making a list of the people to whom you would like to make a gift and a few gift ideas for each.
3. Take time to estimate total holiday season costs, such as the cost of travel to visit extended family, cost to host holiday meals, children's gift exchanges, added work-related expenses, and other expenses that are in addition to gift-giving. End-of-year expenses, such as real estate taxes due in December, also will need to be paid.
4. Review personal finances to determine the money available for holiday expenses without adding debt.
If carrying a credit card balance and paying interest, Young advises leaving the credit card at home, and using cash, checks or a debit card to cover holiday expenses.
"A gift need not be expensive to be a hit," said Young, who noted that, in addition to choosing less expensive gifts, more people also are shopping for gently-used items in thrift, dollar or discount stores.
5. Shop with a list, and stick to it.
6. Shop when well rested and not hungry.
7. Choose a date and time when stores are least likely to be crowded, such as weekdays or early morning hours.
8. Divide shopping responsibilities (such as some each week) rather than planning a marathon. Fatigue may prompt less appropriate, or more costly, gift choices.
9. Read the fine print on gift cards before buying.
10. Ask about return policies before buying.
11. Carry an envelope to organize receipts.
12. Track spending to help ease holiday spending next year.
More information on money management, including saving and spending, is available at K-State Research and Extension offices throughout the state and online: www.ksre.ksu.edu/financialmanagement.