October 4, 2018
Getting a Jump-Start on the Holidays
By: Jim Oosterman, Senior Vice President & Chief Lending Officer
There are many reasons why the Holidays are such an enjoyable time of the year. We get to share delicious meals, surround ourselves with beautiful decorations and make lifelong memories with family and friends, to name a few. Unfortunately, saving money is seldom at the top of the list. Basking in all of the joys of the holiday season can take a serious toll on your wallet and add unwanted stress to the most wonderful time of the year.
You might be wondering why we’re already talking about the holidays when you’ve only just packed up your beach chair and you haven’t even bought your kids their Halloween costumes yet. Although we may agree that it is too soon to be building a gingerbread house, it’s never too soon to start financial planning. When it comes to your holiday budget it literally pays to plan ahead. Take these proactive steps to ensure your financial well-being, which is the gift that keeps on giving, even after the holidays have passed.
Do you stop and buy your coffee every morning before work? Do you eat at your favorite restaurant every Friday night? Maybe you meet your friends every Wednesday for happy hour? Regardless of what it is, take time to examine your normal routine and find where there's room to save. Make your coffee at home, try out a new recipe, invite your friends over instead of meeting for drinks. You don’t have to give it up forever, but in the months leading up to the holiday season, take the money you would normally be spending on dinner, coffee, drinks etc. and add it to your holiday fund! You’ll be surprised how fast it adds up.
Instead of buying a gift for every niece, nephew and in-law who is going to be at the family party, propose a gift exchange instead. Odds are you aren’t the only one who is stressed about funding the holiday season. Do a Secret Santa and pick names out of a hat or conduct a Yankee Swap and bring a gift to put in the pile. Though everyone may receive fewer gifts, a gift exchange is a fun way to liven up a party and build memories with your loved ones, which is truly what the holidays are all about.
You most likely know what stores you’re going to be shopping at for the holidays. Now is the perfect time to subscribe to their websites and start receiving emails about holiday deals, free shipping days and other sales. In addition, be on the lookout for coupons you can use by downloading couponing apps or subscribing to popular couponing websites. Although it may take a little extra time out of your already busy day, constantly being on the lookout for the best deals and discounts available, can help you save big and stick to your holiday budget.
Holiday gifts and meals are the largest components of a holiday budget and the easiest to account for and plan. When creating your budget take some time to reconsider the less obvious expenses that may arise during the impending holiday season such as gift wrapping supplies, unexpected travel costs, or a higher electric bill from your holiday lights. Remember that the holidays are a charitable time of year and you’ll most likely be prompted to donate to many different causes and organizations. We highly encourage giving back to the community, but don’t forget to make room for the hidden cost of donations in your budget!
It’s easy to create a holiday budget but it’s a lot harder putting it into action. It can be hard not to give into impulse when surrounded by all of the joy and warmth of the holidays. To avoid cheating on the budget you’ve worked so hard on, make sure to always consider if the purchase in question is a want or a need. Make lists and stick to them, it’s a lot easier to avoid impulse buys when you arrive at a store with everything you need already in mind. Finally, remember the most important part of the holiday season isn’t about having the flashiest decorations or the most extravagant party, it's about spending quality time with friends and family.