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Budgeting to Survive the Holidays

November 06, 2019
assorted shopping and gift red paper bags

Are you one of the thousands of Americans still paying for Christmas gifts from last year?

According to a survey from personal finance website NerdWallet, 1 in 4 shoppers by fall of 2018 were still paying off holiday gifts charged in 2017. Equally depressing is a 2016 report from investment management firm T. Rowe Price that showed 25% of parents had dipped into an emergency savings account or 401(k) plan or taken out a payday loan to cover holiday expenses. 

The holidays are stressful enough. Do you really want to add to that stress by overburdening your savings account with more holiday expenses than you can afford? 

Despite the trend of Americans spending more money on holiday gifts each year, you can rein in expenses and still enjoy the spirit of the season by following a few simple tips:

1. Set a budget. Determine, in advance, what you can afford to spend. This amount should include gifts, as well as entertainment, food, travel and wardrobe expenses.

2. Track your spending. Most people have no idea how much they've spent on the holidays, especially if they started shopping early. They simply keep charging. 

3. Plan shopping needs in advance. Don't randomly wander through stores, getting tempted by things you had no intention of buying when you first started. Make a list and check it twice!

4. Learn to say "no." This applies to gifts, as well as other holiday-related expenses. For instance, you likely don't really need a brand new outfit for that holiday get-together. Chances are, no one remembers what you wore last year. But if you're still concerned, think about changing up the accessories to change your look without spending a bunch.

5. Don't buy something you can't afford. No matter how great it looks on you or how much your kids want it, if it's too much, put it back.

6. Get creative with gift giving. The best gifts often don't come from the store. Consider making something if you're crafty or offer your time, service or companionship.

7. Leverage store return policies. Just because you bought it in a moment of weakness doesn't mean you have to keep it. No one will judge you for returning something you really don't need or can't afford.

8. Search for deals. There are lots of discount codes when shopping online. Often you just need to look for them. And when making holiday travel plans, start early because there are often early bird discounts for  those who plan ahead.

9. Consider gift exchanges. Rather than buying a gift for all of your friends, why not form a gift exchange in which everyone still gets gifts plus the fun of getting together to exchange them?

10. Get a seasonal job. If you know your expenses will be greater than your savings, think about ways to make more money. Retail stores, delivery companies and hospitality businesses are always looking for extra help around the holidays.

As a final note, try to remember the true meaning of the season. It doesn't mean you care more just because you spend more.

Here's wishing you a happy, less stressful and less expensive holiday season! 

The information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither Cortland Bank or its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering you any tax, accounting or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on www.cortlandbank.com, you will leave the Cortland Bank website and be directed to an unaffiliated third-party website that may offer a different privacy policy or level of security. The third-party is responsible for website content and system availability. Cortland Bank does not offer, endorse, recommend or guarantee any product or service available on that entity’s website.

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