'Tis the Season For Saving!
10 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Spending Habits off the Naughty List!
The holidays are upon us, that means a lot of money spent on holiday gifts and other once-a-year expenses. But, warns Leslie Greenman, don’t let this year’s holiday spending ruin all of the saving you’ve done throughout the year.
Holiday shopping for 2011 is about to kick into full swing. This years, reports Gallup, Americans plan to spend an average of $764 on Christmas.
And while that number is down from pre-recession amounts, it still represents a significant chunk of change for many American families. Leslie Greenman says that in order to curb our bad spending habits during the holidays, we must first understand why we let ourselves splurge in the first place.
"We spend a lot during the holidays because we love giving to our friends and family,” says Leslie Greenman, a financial advisor and author of the new book Dating Our Money: A Women’s Guide to Confidence with Money & Men. “The holidays also give us a guilt-free pass to shop ’til we drop.” or at get gifts!” But, Greenman notes, this psychology of gift giving isn’t good for your financial health.
Read on for Greenman’s tips on how to keep your spending and your sanity in check this holiday season:
1. Get real with yourself about your financials. Before you even make your gift list, you need to have a heart-to-heart with yourself about your financials. “Look at how much you can realistically spend,” advises Greenman. “Then decide whether or not you really need to spend that amount. financial picture really looks like, instead of thinking about it as a black hole, you’ll be.”
2. Don’t shop when you’ve got the holiday blues. This time of year can bring a lot of joy, but the hectic nature of the season can also be overwhelming. “Avoid shopping when you’re having a down day,” advises Greenman. “Studies have shown that we are willing to spend more when we are sad. So when you’re suffering from the holiday blues, curl up and watch a holiday movie or go do something fun with your kids instead. Save the shopping for a better mood.”
3. Remember, ’tis the season for relationships. It’s perfectly natural to want to give back to those who give to you, but it’s quite possible that your friends and family will appreciate an end to spending this holiday season just as much as you. Suggest to those on your gift list that you all spend valuable time with one another rather than purchasing gifts this year.
4. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. You might find the perfect gift for someone but then reject it because you don’t think the price is significant enough to be an adequate gift.
“The reality is that a gift with a lot of thought behind it or shared meaning for you and the person you’re buying for can have a lot more significance than a more expensive gift,” says Greenman. “For example, have your kids write down the 10 things they love about their grandparents and include the list in a photo album of the kids. These are all gifts that involve more thought and meaning than just going to the store and buying a gift. And the people receiving them will truly appreciate it.”
5. Save merrily by trading in your rewards points for gifts or gift cards. You should always, always use your credit cards wisely. Never make purchases on your credit card unless you can pay them off at the end of the month. And during the holidays avoid whipping them out to pay for gifts. But one positive role credit cards can have during the holidays is rewards points. “In fact, I save up all my rewards points throughout the year and use them in December for gifts,” Greenman says.
6. Point, click, and save. The benefits of online shopping are obvious. You don’t have to battle holiday traffic, it is practically hassle-free, and it’s easier to compare prices. “The prices are also almost always better online,” says Greenman. “You have a greater selection, and usually free shipping is offered around the holidays.”
7. Don’t shop with a holiday budget saboteur. If you prefer doing your shopping with someone else in tow, be sure to choose someone who won’t encourage you to go off budget.
“Carefully consider who you’re shopping with," advises Greeman. "Will the person encourage unexpected buying or splurging? If so, you might want to politely decline their invitation.”
8. Have a Secret Santa-style gift exchange. Depending on the size of your family, buying a gift for each family member can be daunting, especially when you see some of them only once a year!
9. Don’t be afraid to regift. Take an inventory of regifting possibilities. Are there any gift cards you’ve never used? Any clothes hanging in your closet with the tags still on them? Any gifts you’ve received in years past that you’ve never taken out of the box? If so you might want to consider regifting them.
10. Make like Santa’s elves and DIY. Getting crafty during the holidays is fun and can save you a lot of money on gifts. There are any number of options depending on your level of craftiness. “Costco has cute jars filled with cookie dough ingredients,” says Greenman. “We could all do that at home! Bake cookies and place them in a holiday tin for your kids’ teachers. Frame your kids’ artwork for their grandparents. The possibilities are truly endless and truly cost-effective!”
When Leslie Greenman’s husband unexpectedly passed on at age 35, she suddenly became a single mother of two boys (ages two and four). Leslie learned how quickly life can change. She went into the financial industry to empower women with the knowledge and confidence to take action and be prepared. Through her tough experiences of becoming suddenly single, she realized how easily women can be misinformed and taken advantage of. Dating Our Money offers women the important information they need to confidently make smart choices with money and men.
Leslie is currently a financial advisor, author, and public speaker. She loves to talk to women and girls about managing money and making wise choices but can adapt a speech to meet the needs of any audience. She encourages people to remember that every decision counts! Buying soda at a restaurant could prevent you from saving thousands of dollars over a lifetime.
Through her book, Dating Our Money, Leslie’s goal is to make financial planning fun and relatable for all women.