Family Fundamentals: Make plan, be firm to curb holiday spending (for November 2012)
Every year, I spend more money
than I want to during the holidays. Can you suggest ways to help me not go
overboard this year?
Sure. But all the tips and
guidance in the world won’t help unless you make a firm commitment to yourself
that this year will be different. Just as with any change to long-held habits
(think “I’m going to lose weight” or “I’m going to quit smoking”), it will take
energy, determination and focus. It won’t just happen simply because you want
it to happen.
With that in mind, here’s some
- Estimate what you want to spend
- Then list categories of what you
plan to purchase. Include everything holiday-related: gifts (how many and who
you’re buying for); decorations; travel or other outings; extra groceries for
baking or special meals; and gift wrap, cards and postage. Include an “other”
category to estimate unanticipated expenses. And unless you already have them
budgeted, it would be a good idea to include any end-of-year charitable
donations in the total.
- Estimate how much you will spend
in each category, and compare it to what you want to spend overall.
- Once you add everything up, you
may need to adjust your expectations in some categories. Do you have to buy
gifts for everyone on your list? Can you suggest a round-robin gift exchange
with family or friends? Could you realistically cut back in other areas? On the
other hand, is it possible (and reasonable) to increase your overall budget?
When you look at the cold, hard numbers in front of you, you might decide that
this is the year to cut back so you don’t end up with large credit card bills
in January. But then, as a next step, you could begin in 2013 to set aside a
certain amount of money with each paycheck so you can spend more next year
without going into debt.
- Decide how you will keep track
of your expenses. Some people prefer an old-fashioned pen and paper. Others
think setting up a computer spreadsheet is more efficient. Either way, be sure
to jot down every holiday-related expense and tally it up at the end of the
day. That way, you can see how you’re doing on spending in each category and
- When you’re about to start shopping,
have a plan. Read ads and do some online searching to look for the best deals.
And know what you want to buy (even if it’s just a general “gift for Aunt
Mildred”) before you enter a store, and don’t let yourself be distracted by the
great-looking displays of unrelated items.
- Some financial experts suggest
leaving your credit cards at home and instead paying with cash or check. It
seems that people tend to spend more freely when using credit cards.
- If it’s within your budget, plan
to do some after-Christmas shopping to catch great sales on holiday items for
You can find more guidance at
http://www.extension.org, where Ohio State University Extension and other
members of the nation’s Cooperative Extension System offer a wealth of information
on many topics, including personal finances. Just go to the site and search for
Family Fundamentals is a monthly
column on family issues. It is a service of Ohio State University Extension and
the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Family
Fundamentals, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1044, or
Dear Subscriber: This column was
reviewed by Patricia Brinkman, family and consumer sciences educator with Ohio
State University Extension.
OSU Extension, family and consumer sciences