HOLIDAY HAZE: Maintaining Financial Clarity One Holiday at a Time

Retailers are at it again! The kids have barely had the opportunity to unpack and use all of their cool new school supplies and the aisles of retailers are being transformed into candy shops, haunted houses, harvest décor, and believe it or not, snowmen and Santa figurines. This transformation started to happen before schools were even back in session! 

As if shopping for back to school supplies, clothes and getting into a new routine is not stressful enough for families, retailers want to inject a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) and get you spending on items that are 60 to 100 days away. Stores ranging from Safeway to Costco have been haunting and daunting consumers with bags of candy, costumes, and festive fall décor.

Just reading this article might start putting your brain into a frantic frenzy and give you a bit of retailer FOMO! But, stay calm and read on! There is still plenty of time, and definitely enough inventory, to fill your decorative dishes with candy corn, purchase your child’s favorite superhero costume, stage your front porch for a fall photoshoot, and deck your halls with holiday décor! The following tips will help you plan, organize and budget your way through the holidays without getting your tinsel in a tangle.   

FOCUS ON ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME

The first and one of the most important steps is to focus on one holiday at a time. Look at the calendar for the next few months and make a list of each holiday that you and your family celebrate. The list may include Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, and the New Year. Once you have the list, take inventory and purge before you splurge. 

TAKE INVENTORY

Next, take inventory of items that you already have and make a detailed list of what you need. Before you purchase one new item for your home or child, take the time to pull out all decorations, refresh your memory on what you have, and decide if you really need new décor. It is so easy to forget what is stashed away in a closet. Think about how many times you open a box of holiday loot and have forgotten what you had tucked away. Usually, when a holiday is over you are so busy packing up and restocking for the next, that the inventory becomes one big blur. Taking inventory avoids spending money on items that you already have or don’t need. If you find that items need to be replaced or updated, take the time to purge before you splurge.  

SET A BUDGET AND MAKE A LIST

For each and every holiday, set a budget and make a list of items (or people) that you need to shop for. For Halloween, a list might include candy, parties, costumes, and décor. Set a budget with the total that you can afford to spend and then break it down by each item. For example, if the total budgeted amount is $150, that amount could be broken down as follows:

HOLIDAY / BUDGET HALLOWEEN / $150
Candy$20
Parties $50
Costumes$50 
Décor $30
Total$150

If you are over budget, revisit the list, revise/remove as needed, and get creative. If you have children, take the time to communicate the maximum amount each can spend on a costume. Or, get creative and have a contest on who in the family can make the most creative costume on a budget. Getting creative can add up to substantial savings. 

For Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa use the same format. Set the maximum amount you want to spend and then break it down by category and individual. For example:

HOLIDAY / BUDGET CHRISTMAS / $500
Décor Update $50
Hostess Gifts $50
Gifts for Mom / Dad$50 
Gifts for Grandma/ Grandpa $50
Gifts for Teachers$30
Gifts for Kids $100
Clothing $70
Food $100
Total$500

Of course, numbers will vary depending on your lifestyle and income, the above are just visuals to help get the planning started by putting pen to paper. 

Regardless of your income, taking the time to take inventory, creating a written plan, setting a budget, and sticking with it will eliminate holiday debt drama, allow you to plan with ease, and most of all enjoy every moment of the busiest quarter of the year!

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