The holidays are a difficult time for most families for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest causes of heartache and stress is the financial burden incurred via holiday spending. Each year you vow to spend less, but somehow find yourself entering the New Year with a mountain of debt that you’ll be paying down until the next holiday season. It’s a vicious cycle, but now is the time to break it. So stop feeling like the gifts you bought aren’t good enough and start thinking about what’s good for your finances; you know your family and friends would hate for you to go into debt on their behalf. And here are a few tips that will help you to formulate a workable budget for holiday spending.
For starters, you need to sit down and look at your financial situation. If you can’t pay the gas, electric, or mortgage this month, there’s no way you should be spending money on extras for the holidays. And yet, you don’t want your family to be disappointed (especially if you have kids). So if you’re one of the many that find yourself in dire straits this year thanks to the ongoing recession, look into programs that will provide you with food for a holiday feast and possibly even gifts for your kids. There are many charitable organizations that offer these services to families in need and you shouldn’t be too proud to seek them out if you want to stay on track for a better financial future.
That said, many families will have some money set aside for the holidays, albeit a limited amount. But there are options here, too. You need to begin by looking at what you’ve managed to set aside and make a decision to leave the credit cards at home and truly stick to the budget you set yourself. Of course, this could require a plan of action, so you should further set yourself limits for individual gifts. For example, a very restricted budget could mean that you’re only purchasing gifts for immediate family and close friends. That’s okay; for the most part, people outside your immediate circle (kids’ teachers, coworkers, etc.) won’t be hurt if you fail to give a gift because it means they don’t feel like they have to reciprocate (and give gifts that they can’t afford either).
On the other hand, you may have enough to spread around. This is okay as long as you track everything to ensure that you don’t go over budget. One good way to stick with the program is to give gift cards. You can get them from stores that you know specific people would prefer, get them all from the same place, or even give teen debit cards from Visa that are prepaid and reloadable (perhaps taking care of future gifts). You could even consider simply donating to a charity in the names of friends and family as a way to remove the pressures of gifting and really stick to your budget. But whatever you do, remember that it is possible to create a working budget for the holidays that keeps your finances stable into the coming year. And if you think it through and plan a course of action you should have no problem sticking to it.
Carol Montrose writes for Get Debit where you can find a huge selection of debit cards like the mPower card, and even look at customer feedback and ratings.