Every year around this time, shoppers begin their countdown of shopping days until Christmas. But again this year, many of us are more likely counting the number of paychecks we will receive before the happy holiday arrives.
Yes, the tension of the “shopping season” is here, with skittish consumers and reticent retailers approaching this most wonderful time of the year with a bit of fear and trepidation.
If visions of bankruptcy are beginning to dance in your head, remember that holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, at least according to financial expert Ebenezer Scrooge. Kidding.
But in my Internet travels, one moneyman in particular mentioned something about a “budget” and outlines a concept he calls a “savings plan.” Because I was unfamiliar with these terms, I thought I’d give his “How to Budget for the Holidays” a quick read. And low and behold, it seems we actually can experience a joyous holiday without going broke.
This expert, who calls himself “The Financial Physician,” suggests we use some common sense and honestly assess our fiscal situation before hitting the mall, and offers advice to help save us some money and grief.
The good doctor proposes we predetermine the maximum amount of spending that will be done on credit cards, and suggests we search for sales and bargains. And instead of buying expensive gifts, he said, buy a larger number of inexpensive ones—keeping the total cost in check.
The doctor also prescribes restricting gift buying to your immediate family and explaining to your children that during tough times, holiday expenditures will be lower.
It’s too late for this year, but start a holiday club bank account so next year you will have the cash saved for the 2011 season.
But by expecting less of ourselves—and encouraging our families to accept those limitations—we are teaching valuable lessons about how to manage money, while reducing the stress of the season so everyone can enjoy themselves, including our local retailers.
We might simply need to reassure ourselves that the time we spend with our families during the holidays is the true gift of the season.