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A Little Holiday Planning For You And Your Bank Account

October 16, 2013

The leaves are changing, temperatures are falling and the holiday season is fast approaching.  One of my favourite times of the year!

fall xmas treeBefore you know it, you will be knee deep in holiday festivities. So, take some quality time now to reflect on how you can control your money before it controls you.

The secret to surviving the holiday season with your finances intact is a little pre-emptive planning.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Gather Ideas–  It’s never too early to be thinking about gifts that will make your family and friends happy.  They don’t need to be expensive to be great.  My mother-in-law told me that her favourite gift from me was a personal gift basket that I assembled from scratch.  It did take some thought but it was actually one of the more enjoyable and less expensive gifts that I have given her over the years.  I picked up things on my travels throughout the year when I saw them for less.

Don’t know what to buy?  Try browsing Pinterest or your favourite on-line stores for some fun, creative and cost-effective ideas.  But do it now before the holiday pressures take over.

Make a list–  Getting organized is half the battle to a successful holiday season. Knowing what to buy and where to buy it will save time, money and stress.  It also helps you reduce the number of shopping trips to get what you need.

Make a budget–  Do you know what Christmas costs?  Most people don’t.  Remember all the little expenses that can add up like dinners out while holiday shopping, new party outfits or unplanned hostess gifts.  Maybe you don’t need to buy for everyone that you have in the past?  Think about talking to your loved ones to reduce or revise holiday buying.  Maybe “Secret Santa” would work well for your family?  My mother and sisters decided one year to buy a bottle of wine for each other rather than a personal, more expensive gift.  It has now become a family tradition for all the adults.  At first, I didn’t like it, but now I appreciate saving money and replenishing my post holiday season wine cupboard.

Pay Attention To Food Bills–  I don’t know about you, but I continually waste more food during holiday season.  Unexpected, last minute events often mean that I throw out spoiled produce and order in more take-out than at any other time of year.  I know this now, so a little planning should help me do better!

Three things I’ll do differently this year are having some fast/easy meals ready in my freezer, using more canned/frozen fruits and veggies during December and buying fresh produce only when I need it.  I’ll also try to have some simple recipes at my fingertips with basic ingredients that I always have in my kitchen.

Be A Smart Shopper– Think about buying in bulk, splitting up and creating your own special gifts.  Watch the sales, especially for items that have universal popularity or are always in style.  Don’t forget to make the most of your rewards points or coupons to reduce the cost of your purchases.  Consolidating purchases at your favourite stores can earn you valuable rewards or additional discounts.  Remember where to get things for less like dollar stores, Wallmart or discount stores like Costco, Winners etc.

Every year, I find I need a handful of hostess gifts.  So this year, I plan to buy a bunch of useful, popular, timeless (and inexpensive) gifts for easy giving.  Maybe specialty food items with long expiration dates in pretty packages or bowls.  If I have any leftover, it won’t matter because I will use them myself.

Time Your Buying-  According to Mint.com, some of the best things to buy in the last three months of the year are cars, TV’s, electronics, appliances, tools, jeans and patio furniture.

Can you shop when noone else is shopping?  I try to do this because I hate crowds and line-ups and I can get what I need much faster.  Think about weekday evening shopping or taking a few days off work to hit the stores when they’re not busy.

Enlist Help–  So many of us, especially women, feel they need to do it all alone.  I am guilty as charged.  For many years and by choice, I managed 100% of the holiday buying and activities for my family.  I have always loved shopping, but I found myself getting stressed, exhausted and miserable the closer Christmas got.  Ended up taking the fun right out of the season for me!

I learned that it is perfectly acceptable to delegate to my kids and spouse!  Or, if you can afford it, consider hiring a holiday shopper  or concierge to make your life easier.

The holidays should be a magical time of year, not a miserable one.

Good luck and happy planning!

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