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Financial Preparation for the Holiday Season

October 30, 2015

Before it comes time to start dashing through the snow, make sure your pockets will jingle all the way through the start of the new year. With gatherings to be planned, decorations to be hung and gifts to be purchased, there are many potential distractions that can make your accounts anything but merry and bright. As you brace yourself for the rush of holiday sales, take some time to prepare now.

Set a realistic budget

You know the importance of budgeting, but to take it one step further, be sure to create a true-to-life budget. This may even mean budgeting for yourself. Odds are that while you are perusing the stores a too-good-to-be-true deal for something you want or need will catch your eye. Prepare for that from the start to avoid skimping on your uncle’s gift to make up for the budget-blunder later. On another note, remember to factor in smaller expenses that may add up over time. This could include shipping costs and food to bring to gatherings. The more detailed your budget, the more prepared you will feel to manage the variety of expenses that this time of year brings.

Make a list (and check it twice)

Whether you are planning what gifts to buy who or deciding what to serve at a family gathering, writing down what you need to buy before leaving home will keep you on track, and on budget. Retailers strategically place items to entice customers to spend more. With a list in hand, you will be less likely to aimlessly splurge. Having a list also allows you to better prioritize your spending. Additionally, seeing all expenses in an aggregated list can help you determine where to opt for more affordable options and where you can spend a little more.

Avoid procrastinating

Are you a culprit of waiting until the last possible minute to finish your shopping? This could be a major budget-buster. Desperate shoppers are likely to settle for deals that do not always suit their budget or price range. A little advanced planning can go a long way. Not to mention, the stress of rushing when time is limited has costs of it’s own.

Keep receipts organized

If you have a strategic system in place to keep receipts organized, stick with it. If not, now is a great time to initiate one. Saving receipts in an organized fashion will allow you to monitor your spending and ensure your budget is on track. Additionally, receipts make returns much easier if a more affordable option is found elsewhere or you discover that something you bought is not needed anymore. At times, stores will allow you to return items without a receipt for store credit, but if you rarely shop at that store or would rather use the money somewhere else, hanging on to your receipt will work in your favor. In the midst of the holiday season, making deliberate efforts to keep your finances top of mind will make for a much smoother transition into the new year, the time when aspirations to be financially-savvy are prioritized. Why not get a jump-start now to save yourself the stress and some cash in the long run?

James Oosterman is the Vice President of Melrose Bank. He can be reached by telephone 781-665-2500, online at or on Facebook at

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