Believe it or not, now is the time to make your financial plan for the holidays in December.
Well, you may not want to think about holiday shopping in the middle of the summer, especially if December’s festivities are normally a stressful time for you (and your bank account), but it’s actually a great time to put in a little effort now for greater reward later on. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go into the holiday season with goodwill in your heart, peace in your mind, and the right cash in your wallet, so that when the holidays roll around you can be full of joy instead of trepidation?
The holiday season doesn’t have to be an experience filled with last-minute shopping and a mound of debt afterward. You can approach this year’s festive weeks with intention and more ease, all by starting to plan in July! Here are five things you can do to set yourself up for success:
1. Have a family meeting to talk about the holiday season. Will you go away on vacation or stay at home? Will you host dinner or go to someone else’s? A family discussion might spur some new and creative ideas. Also talk about how you want to feel during the holiday season. Do you want to rest and relax? Connect with others? Go on adventures? Planning how you want to feel can help give shape to the activities you want to build into your time.
2. Agree to having a credit-free holiday season. This will ensure that once the season is over, you’re not spending the next three months paying it off. In fact, by committing to a credit-free holiday season, you can return to your everyday life and continue working on your financial goals just as soon as you’ve recycled all the wrapping paper and eaten the last cookie!
3. Talk openly and honestly about your budget, and work backward. For example, with easy math, if the holiday season is going to cost $1,000 for gifts, wrapping, food and drinks, baking, babysitting, and extra fuel for driving, and you have 10 paychecks between now and the holidays, put $100 of every check into a savings account, and you’ll be set. If the amount per paycheck feels like too much strain on your budget, adjust your goal so you put less aside. Ask your family for creative ways to help with the budget. Can your children make some money by recycling bottles and cans? Can they contribute and be part of the entire process?
4. Make a list of essential gifts to buy. Once an item has been purchased, cross it off and move on. This is especially true for the friends and family on your list. Once you’ve handled your sister’s gift, that’s it! Don’t keep looking for that “perfect gift” and buying her more. She’d likely enjoy your “presence” over another wrapped box. With a main list, you can start shopping as early as you want to maximize seasonal sales.
5. Use this time to create teachable moments for your children. This can be a fun process to go through with your family. You have an opportunity to talk about setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed) goals, creating a budget, quality versus quantity, impulse control (waiting for a sale), using technology (savings apps), and price comparison. Beyond this, you’re modeling communication, collaboration, and the value of planning in advance.
► STACY YANCHUK OLEKSY IS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AT CREDIT COUNSELLING CANADA.