Embracing the holidays (without going to the poor house)
The holidays are a scary time — and I’m not just talking about the hurricane roaring around us, all but canceling Halloween for the northeast.
Most of us are going to spend (way) more on holiday purchases this year compared to last. In fact, according to Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, 40% of us are going to go way over budget — and, in fact, many of us are still paying off debt from LAST YEAR’s holidays as we spend more money on this year’s season!
If you’re planning to put even more under the tree this year, I think a good goal is to make sure you don’t end the holiday season with a chunk of funds missing from your savings account. (Especially if you are like the majority of us and live pay check to pay check!)
I was lucky enough to attend a dinner the other night hosted by Avon, where Alexa shared some (much-needed) personal finance advice. She shared advice on making the most of your money — something that the Avon representatives in attendance knew something about. The representatives had taken control of their finances — and came out champions — and the hope is, with Alexa’s advice, so will we!
Have a Plan
Alexa was talking about her multi-point plan for life savings and retirement — all very valuable info. So also shared several money mantras, and one was to have a “money moment” each day & check all of your finances in one place. To that end, I try to keep to a plan with my gift-giving (and buying!) — and a budget. When you’ve got a budget you’re less likely to tap into your savings. For a while now, I’ve been using the Gift List Manager app which guides you through planning and tracking your gift giving needs. May not make my money stretch further – but it keeps track of what I’m spending and where it’s going!
Become less dependent on cards (And yes, that means carrying cash)
How many of you pay for EVERYTHING with your credit cards? Join the team. I do it all the time, too — I’ve even charged coffee quite a few times. And stores know this, which is why everyone is always offering you discounts, bonuses, and more to open up credit with them. Store-branded credit cards are a risky move and carry much higher interest rates than mainstream plastic. But if you really want to prevent the holidays from eating away at your savings, pay cash instead. And if you want to know what damage has already been done to your credit — because too much revolving credit is not good for your future home/car/vacay home-buying, ladies! – Alexa recommended we check out CreditKarma.com – it’s a free credit score! (And mine turned out to be way better than I anticipated! Yay!)
Don’t Spend More on a Return
Something I’ve noticed for years — many of the times I return a gift, or use a gift card, I end up spending way more than the original gift was worth! Hard as it is, ladies, when you are returning that sweater that’s TOTALLY not your taste, try not to buy three that are while you are at it.
Scary fact: Alexa said you’re 17% more likely to spend money during the holidays when holiday music is playing! Lend a deaf ear to all that holiday cheer and pay attention to your goal — much like you shouldn’t grocery shop hungry, you shouldn’t shop when you are feeling quite that festive! You may end up eating way too much (cash). My tool: Always be ready with your plan (see above!) — and that includes making sure you are getting the best deal possible on purchases. A price calculator app is another useful money-saving tool. Use it to figure out coupon and percentage discounts.
Remember what REALLY matters this season (and always)
Sure, holiday shopping is fun. But is it worth eliminating your nest egg or putting extra financial strain on yourself? Probably not. Avoid sitting in a pile of regret-filled crumpled wrapping paper come December 26. Instead trim down your shopping list and focus on the people that really matter in your life. LearnVest (and their brand-new free iPhone app!) may just help with that.
Also, don’t be a scrooge – there’s lots of amazing gifts you can give that don’t cost a cent. Think outside the box! (And if you need some ideas, send me a tweet and I’ll share a few of mine!)
I am an Avon brand blogger ambassador, however all opinions expressed are always my own.