Newswise — While the holiday season encourages all to enjoy the gift of giving, unchecked spending can result in serious damage to your finances. Keeping the following tips in mind will allow you to continue to enjoy giving to others while managing your holiday budget.
1. Make a budget. Look at your overall finances and determine what is a reasonable and realistic amount of money that you can afford to spend over the holiday period. More specifically, think about how solid your income earning status is in the New Year. Don’t panic. Just be realistic. Once that’s done, assign amounts to each individual you are buying a gift for. Figure out the total, and if it’s above your budget, knock down the amount for each person by the required percentage, and hopefully, you’re there. Don’t forget to include cards, wrap, tape, postage, charitable donations and any other miscellaneous holiday expenses in your budget.
2.To help you stick to your budget, keep all your receipts and track your spending.
3. To avoid a January credit card hangover, only spend money you have. Don’t purchase gifts on your credit card unless you know you can pay them off within your statement period.
4. When credit cards are the only accepted methods of payment, as with online transactions, save the money you will need before you make the purchase. Then pay off your credit card immediately after charging it.
5. A line of credit typically has a much lower interest rate than credit cards. A line of credit can be a cost effective, convenient way to borrow money for a short period of time. Ask your financial institute about opening a short-term line of credit for the holiday season in lieu of doing your shopping with a credit card. There is generally no annual fee for a line of credit agreement; you usually do not have to pay off the entire balance.
6. Try setting up a separate savings account and add to it throughout the year in anticipation of the holiday season. Then you’ll have the cash and won’t feel the pressure to scrimp and save all at once. Also, you’ll have an automatic tracker of how much money you’ve spent and how much you have left at all times.
7. Beware of the “Don’t Pay Till…” deals. Check the wording of the contract very carefully. It’s only interest free if it actually says “interest free”. If is says you have a grace period that means that if you pay the balance in full by a certain date, you won’t have to pay any interest. However, if you don’t pay it off by the specified date, interest will be applied for the full term, meaning from the time that you made the purchase. If the contract says you have an interest free period, interest does not start until the period has expired. If you don’t have the money now, and don’t think you’ll be able to save the full amount by the end of the term, it’s a good idea to walk away from this type of deal. A better way to finance your purchase may be through a line of credit.
8. Ask your recipients about their favourite charities in advance of the holiday season. As a holiday gift, make a donation to that charity in their name. Cards are sent by the charity (usually free of charge) and do not specify the amount of the donation, so there is less pressure on the gift giver. As an added bonus, you will get a tax receipt for the donation. While this may not be an ideal gift for some recipients, others will appreciate the thought and value of the gift.
9. Look into various means of saving money:•If you see a good deal, buy five.•Go in on a group gift.•Give homemade gifts.•Talk to your loved ones and establish a gift giving limit that works for everyone.•Try Secret Santa for large groups, as opposed to buying gifts for everyone.•Start shopping early. If you see a great deal in June, buy the gift then and hold on to it until the holidays arrive.•Take advantage of post-Christmas sales for next year.•Try to find one destination for all your gift-giving needs so you don’t waste a lot of gas money driving all over town.•Send e-cards instead of traditional holiday cards.•Shop online to browse, get gift ideas, compare prices and take advantage of online savings.
For more holiday tip sheets please visit Ryerson University's Holiday Media Room at http://www.ryerson.ca/news/media/spotlight/holiday2010/