Christmas in... October?
Q. I know it may be early to talk about Christmas, but do you have any advice on saving for the holiday season?
A. It’s never too early to talk about Christmas! I’m glad you’re thinking about things ahead of time. A lot of people wait until December to buy gifts and make plans. That’s fine if they’ve got the money set aside to handle things, but most of them don’t. Then, they panic and turn to credit cards. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re still paying off Christmas in April. If you don’t have anything put aside yet, I’d suggest setting some spending goals now.
Taking a close look at your income and living expenses should be part of this. If you’re not doing it already, what I’m talking about here is living on a written, monthly budget.
Look at how much you can afford to put toward Christmas each month, make a gift-giving goal amount, and stick to it.
Along with this, you might consider opening a separate account just for your Christmas savings. Start looking for gift deal snow, too. There are end-of-summer sales still going on, and you never know what you might find. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a wonderful Christmas or make the season special for others—even when it comes to giving. Thoughtful handmade items, meaningful photographs set in a frame, or special baked goods are great ways to show the folks in your life you’re thinking about them and how much you care. Now, let’s talk about next year. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with including a line just for Christmas in your budget each month. Putting a little money aside all yearlong might just take some of the stress out of your Yuletide planning.
Q. With COVID-19 and all the resulting economic problems, do you have advice for what a person can do to prepare for the future?
A. Regardless of the coronavirus or any economic situation that might arise, there are always a few smart, simple things people can do to protect themselves financially. The number one thing is to live on a written, monthly budget. When you give every dollar a name, and write it down on paper, you’re telling your money what to do, instead of scratching your head and wondering where it went. Staying out of debt and saving as much money as possible are two other great ideas.
Remember, your income is your biggest wealth building tool. If you’re saddled with a bunch of debt, your money goes to creditors—not into your pocket. Saving prepares you for the future and all the unexpected things, good and bad, life will throw at you. These are all simple things. But they’ll make a huge difference in your financial situation now and in the years to come.