This past weekend, I dropped in at a retailer and they were playing Christmas music! The holiday season seems to begin just a bit earlier each year but it is a good reminder of how important it is to have a holiday spending plan in place so that you don’t start the new year in a financial hole. Coming up with holiday gifts for the people you care about doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. You just need to be creative.
Holiday Contest! This year I’d like to share the most creative low-cost gifting ideas by having a contest. Email me your low-cost gift ideas and my staff will choose the best ideas to publish in next week’s column. If your idea is chosen, I’ll send you a free signed copy of my most recently released book, “J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning”. My email address is email@example.com. Enter “Holiday Contest” in the email Subject line.
While we wait for our list of great gift ideas, here’s a strategy everyone can use:
- Set a goal. Let’s start with your number one overarching goal: Create no new debt! The last thing you want to do is to start 2016 with credit card charges you can’t pay off in full. Take a moment to review your current financial situation and set a ‘dollar amount’ goal. How much can you afford to spend (paying cash) this holiday season? It’s ok to use credit cards as long as you have the cash to pay off the new purchases in full once the bill arrives.
- Start saving now. Hopefully, you’ve already saved up some money for gift-giving this holiday season but you still have a few paychecks before the deadline. Think of other ways to raise cash such as holding a garage sale, selling that boat that’s been sitting in the back yard, or selling unwanted items on eBay. It’s a great time to clean house because what you no longer want may be on someone else’s Christmas list!
- Make a list. Make a list of the people you plan to give a gift and keep the list with you. This will give you a head start on your shopping as you never know when you’ll run into a great deal! Having the list readily available will allow you to ‘match’ a great bargain to someone on your list right there on the spot.
- Shop with purpose! Whether you go brick and mortar or on-line, you now know how much you’re going to spend and who you’re going to spend it on. As with year’s past, I expect to see lots of bargains.
Tip: Pool your resources. “Consider pooling your money with someone else to give a gift with a big impact while keeping your cash outlay relatively small. Examples include planning with your siblings for a gift for your parents or planning with your coworkers for a gift for the boss”, says Beth Moody, CFP®. I particularly like the ‘boss’ idea!
- Give something back. The economic turmoil of the past few years has spawned financial hardship on many families. Use this holiday season to teach your children the importance of giving to others who are in need. There are many ways to accomplish this: donate clothing, food, money or you can spend some time working in one of the many shelters located in your home town.