I love and look forward to the holiday season as much as the next person, but I'll be first to admit that as much as this is true, I simultaneously feel a great sense of anxiety when the festive season approaches. I look forward to quality time with family and friends but money is stressful every other month of the year and it's intensified during the holidays.
Christmas parties, gifts and great times lend well to holiday excitement and sadly, great expense. With an uncertain economy and an ever-changing job market, it feels even more stressful than ever. I want so badly to be wholly excited, yet I find myself dreading the obsessive calculations from the frenzied activity in my checkbook, more activity than my checkbook sees all year.
Fortunately for those of us who experience a nagging anxiety tugging at our heart and purse strings, there are ways to relieve these feelings to make the holidays feel almost as joyous as you remember before you had the burden of paying for them.
1. Start this holiday season by getting organized: Maintain a week by week calendar of upcoming events for you and your family during this holiday season. This will help you visualize where you need to be and what you need for each upcoming week. Organization will guide you through the holidays by keeping you focused and will allow you to maximize your money, time and resources. This will further help you avoid last minute panics!
2. Don't be afraid of money stress: You're not alone. If you're concerned about gift giving and don't want to make a dent in your savings or rely on plastic to foot the bill for Santa, discuss your feelings with your spouse, your children or significant other. Express your concern and create a strategy to survive the expense of the holiday season. If discussing the issue with children, help them understand that in the real world some years are financially better than others are. This has been a tough year on millions of Americans and if you spend frugally this holiday season, you can do something special later in the year when times, money and employment are more certain.
3, Paper or plastic? I once wholeheartedly believed "charging it" allowed me to preserve my cash for a later date. Remember, if you charge it, you're only delaying when and how much extra you'll pay for purchases. Create an overall spending plan and determine in advance how much you can afford this year. You'll feel much better when the holiday season is over that you're not still paying for it!
4. Shop early. Shop sales: If you wait until the last minute to do your holiday shopping, you risk missing current sales and overspending on unnecessary purchases, often the result of feeling guilty about procrastinating. Take advantage of sales everywhere to get the most for your dollar and don't forget stores that regularly carry discounted merchandise. One of my favorites is Tuesday Morning. This store typically carries a little of everything and the prices are significantly lower than major department stores.
5. Gift giving doesn't cost a fortune: The most valuable gifts sometimes come in the smallest packages. People often do without the little things they desire because they don't want to spend money on themselves. This is where you come in. Get creative!
6. Inventory your kitchen: To survive the cooking and baking that goes hand in hand with the holidays, make a list of what you have and what you need. Buy only what you need. Use a list when grocery shopping to avoid overspending. Use coupons and remember that if you find something you'll eventually need on sale now, buy it and freeze it for later.
Copyright (c) Susan Powell, 2002 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Creating solutions to the explosive credit card crisis, Susan Powell is author of the new book "Credit Card Debt: It Can Cost You Your Life" and the online debt-elimination special report, "Holding a Losing Hand?". She frequently writes and speaks on the subject of financial literacy.