With so many people unemployed or underemployed this year, it’s easy to ask the question: Is it possible for consumers to emerge debt free this season, and how can they do that? This is a great question to ask, and I believe that the key is to simplify your holidays by developing a strategy for your purchases and executing that plan throughout the entire season rather than waiting until the last minute. We have seven children and have seen our finances run the full gamut of possibilities. When we were first married, we were essentially paupers and didn’t even have enough money for groceries for a few weeks. Now, we’re debt free in every area, but we still want to be purposeful with our money. So my plan works whether you’re flush in cash or your cash has been flushed!
Once you’ve decided to develop a Christmas spending strategy, you may be wondering where to begin. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you shop to save:
Specific – Set aside a specific “cash” budget—don’t use credit cards unless you know you can pay them at the month’s end.
Simplify – Gifts don’t need to be elaborate, especially during a recession. Think “practical” for friends and family who have been hit by the recession and consider giving gift cards that they can use to purchase essentials like food and clothing. These can still be customized to be more personal but the practical aspect of this gift can be more far reaching than any other gift and it’s better than cash.
Strategize – Decide which gifts you’ll purchase and match them with seasonal sale ads. Check off the items on your list and make note of any special limitations (i.e. ‘price only effective for three hours, limit two Ipods per person, etc.). Prioritize the stores you’ll shop according to limitations and values.
Split It – Follow the old “divide and conquer” rule when shopping holiday sales by going with a friend or your spouse. If there are multiple purchase discounts, you can split it and take advantage. You might also have a “two for one” special and share the savings.
Stick to Your Guns – Be aware that you may be tempted to keep buying even when you’ve already conquered your list. Marketers are good at placing irresistible bargains in eye catching places. Remember the main rule of the shopping season: You can go broke saving money.
Steal It – Be sure to save some money in your budget for the after-Holiday sales. You can often get non-perishable gifts for next year’s list at anywhere from 50 to 75 percent off retail.
Since financial stressors are the number one source of arguments in most homes, getting a grip on holiday spending and trying to keep it on a budget makes sense. You may be wondering how to get other family members on board because sometimes you aren’t the one overspending—it’s your kids or spouse.
Having a plan and sticking to it not only simplifies your holidays, it can simplify your life. The recession is a good excuse to restructure the way you do the holidays, and it’s a good idea to have a family meeting. Set up a fun night with hot chocolate & marshmallows and everyone’s favorite holiday dessert. Then explain that with so many people hurting financially around the world, you are thinking that it’s a good ime to focus on the gifts of love that we can give and receive during this time of year. After you outline your holiday spending plan, ask everyone to contribute their ideas as to how they can stay on budget but still show their appreciation and value for the people in your world. We’ve done this with our children, and you’d be amazed at the creative ideas they initiate that also save us money!