Halloween is still a few weeks away. Is it really time to start preparing for holiday gift giving?
The answer is easy: Yes!
Christmas and other winter holidays can turn into major expenses for American families. In 2016, holiday retail sales in the United States totaled $655 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
Those costs often end up on consumer’s credit cards, adding up to more debt for many U.S. families. In fact, consumer counseling agencies see a 25 percent spike in calls from people in the winter. In many cases, it’s because they can’t handle their holiday bills, according to a recent ABC News story.
For these reasons -- and more -- now is a fine time to start planning for the holidays.
1. There’s still time to make a plan and a budget
The hero of any healthy financial plan is a budget -- for your day-to-day expenses and seasonal costs like Christmas gifts. It’s only September, which means there is plenty of time now to take an honest look at your financial health before the end of the year.
Have you paid down some debt this year? Have you put more away in a savings account or retirement fund? Are you living within your budget? Are there more places to scrimp and save?
Once you have your answers, tease out exactly how much you’ll have to spend on Christmas gifts. Ask yourself: Can you forgo dinners out in the next couple of months to save up some extra funds for holiday expenses? Do your kids need more outfits for school now -- or can they wait until Christmas when they’ll have a better handle on what their friends are wearing and what they want to add to their wardrobe?
Making smart decisions now can lead to fewer bills later.
2. You can spread out the cost so it’s not a burden on your budget all at once
Your goal should be to pay off your credit card bills every month so that you never have to pay interest. That’s easier when those bills aren’t massive. You now have three months to spread out those holiday gift costs so your bills are affordable.
3. You can take advantage of sales
Sure, there will be massive markdowns on items right around the holidays. But stores don’t reserve great sales for just the holidays. We still have Columbus Day sales, Veterans Day sales, Thanksgiving sales and more coming up.
What’s more, the deals aren’t just on clothing, toys and home accessories. You also can get great deals on food, including turkeys, ham and baking supplies around Thanksgiving, which you can stick in the freezer or pantry for December holidays.
4. You have time to really listen to what your loved ones want
Instead of rushing around this December, checking off your gift giving list by quickly tossing items in your shopping cart, you now have three months to figure out what your loved ones truly want.
Instead of candles, maybe your mother would prefer some flowers that you can help her plant in her garden. Instead of another set of grilling utensils, maybe your brother would rather have some frozen meals that he can heat up after a long day at work. In many cases, what your loved ones really want will cost much less than the items you might randomly pick up for them at the store. What’s more, you’ll know you’re not throwing away money on things they have no use for.
5. Your holiday season is more peaceful
Planning now means you’re not rushing around during the days before Christmas, frantically looking for gifts to put under the tree. You’re also not fretting about the bills that you’ll face in the new year because you’ve carefully budgeted for all of your holiday spending -- and spread the costs out over several months. Instead, you can revel in the happy smiles and special moments that are the best parts of the holidays.
The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.
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Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
CESI is NOT A LOAN COMPANY