So how much did you spend last Friday? Come on – be honest. Too much? You’re not alone. Retailers are estimating that, collectively, we Americans will spend about $480 billion this Holiday season. I hope we do too. Spending is good for the economy; spending creates jobs and more business, increases competition, and makes life better for all of us. The question each of us needs to ask ourselves is, “What is best for me and my family?”
Below are five ways to help you keep your holiday spending reasonable, and under control.
1. Evaluate your thinking
If you know, or even suspect, that you spend too much during the holidays, it’s time to change your thinking. All change starts with a paradigm shift. It seems to me that most parents think their children actually expect all the items on their wish list. And if you ask them, that’s probably what they will tell you. However, most children never assume they’re getting everything, and most really want one thing in particular, or a couple of items over everything else.
Most children don’t know or understand the concept of money from a standpoint of earning, saving, and spending because they can’t relate to it. They don’t have jobs, their needs are covered, and saving never lasts more than a few months at best. Even if you’ve tried to explain it to them, they just can’t relate to a budget yet. Think about it, when did you learn that concept?
I remember wonderful Christmases when I was growing up. I nearly always received more both in the number of presents and in the amount spent than any of my friends. My parents were middle class and did not believe in debt. Everything was paid for completely as it was purchased. I got clothes, toys, gadgets, money, most of what I asked for and more. (But I didn’t get everything I asked for – and didn’t expect to.) Reflecting back on those times, I was always very proud to go back to school and show or tell my friends how much I received for Christmas. However, also looking back, it would have really been nice to have had perhaps a more reasonable amount of “stuff” at Christmas, and then been able to attend Juilliard when I got accepted but couldn’t afford to go. Of course, this is coming from my adult perspective and coming in retrospect. And don’t get me wrong here – I received a fine education and I’m very happy where I am now. I shared this point with you to get you to think about it this way for a moment; when your children are 20, will they still be thanking you for the latest PlayStation, or will they be wishing you had saved more for their education?
2. Use Credit cards as a tool – not as an answer
You’re probably thinking that I’m going to tell you to not use credit cards this holiday season. Actually, I’m not, but then again, I am. More details please? You got it. Credit cards are a must for shopping online and are extremely useful with brick and mortar retailers. Why? Here’s a snippet from CBS’s Ray Martin:
Only credit cards provide consumers protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, your liability for fraudulent or disputed charges on credit cards is limited to $50 and you have the right to dispute charges and withhold payment while the charge is investigated. Also, if the merchandise delivered is defective or not in the condition “as agreed,” you have the right send it back to the merchant and deny the payment to them. Try getting your money back from a difficult merchant when you’ve paid by a check.
To read the entire article, click here.
Too often, consumers use credit cards as an answer to the question, “Where am I going to get the money for Christmas this year?” If you’re in the situation where you really don’t have money to spend on gifts, at least set yourself a limit – like an amount you know you can pay off in three months or less. Trust me; everyone will understand, and if you shop creatively no one will even have to know.
3. Lose the guilt
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard parents say, “I wouldn’t buy so much for Johnny if Ricky’s parents didn’t buy so much for him. Johnny wouldn’t understand why he didn’t get as much since he knows we make more money than Ricky’s parents.”
Just stop it. Blaming someone else for your overspending is as bad as thinking someone else is going to pay your bills. If Johnny asks why Ricky got more than he did, tell the truth, “I don’t know.” You really don’t know someone else’s financial circumstances. Even if they tell you – they could be lying. Believe me, it happens. People make stuff up because of their own thinking and their own problems. Don’t take on someone else’s thinking or someone else’s problems. Worry about yourself and your family and hope everyone else does the same. Soon, you’ll be able to help in a charitable situation where you sense that a family is in need and you’ll feel better about all of your giving.
While I’m on the subject of charities – I know one woman who puts charitable giving on her credit cards during the holidays. Okay, giving is a good thing, but please find a balance. Don’t give more than you can reasonably afford and don’t go into debt. Yes, there are many people in need, but take care of your own needs first. I like what Oprah Winfrey has to say about this:
“We’ve been programmed to sacrifice everything in the name of what is good and right for everyone else. I know for sure you can’t give what you don’t have.”
4. Realize and accept that you and your family are worth more than material things
You deserve to have money in the bank saved back for a rainy day. Your children deserve their own accounts saving and earning money for their post-high school education. Your children want to spend time with you, even if that means having less. Please remember that children are not the best communicators; they might say they’d rather have a new iPod instead of time with you, but they don’t really mean it. They’re saying that because they don’t believe they’ll get to spend time with you even if they give up the new iPod. I wonder why they would think that. Okay, I’m starting to lecture now and I don’t want to do that, so we’ll move on. Just remember that you and your family deserve meaningful relationships and not just a bunch of “stuff.”
5. Make it fun
Sure spending money is fun, shopping is fun, buying things is fun; but do you know what’s more fun? Getting a good deal on all the stuff you buy.
If your children are internet savvy, ask for their help in finding the things they want at the lowest possible prices. Give them a spending limit and let them choose their own gifts. Maybe you could have one gift for them they don’t know they’re getting so they’re surprised but they’ve chosen the rest. If you don’t want them to know what they’re getting, have them create an online wish list. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do this – they know and they’ll be happy, in this instance, to teach you.
Also remember this tip about shopping online. When you’re in the final stages of making a purchase, if the website has a section for a “promo code,” open another browser window, (or tab if you’re using IE v7), and do a search on promo code + the name of the retailer. This will link you to sites that have promotional discounts for that retailer’s site. I saved $20 on a jacket for my uncle at Brookstone.com using that little trick. It took me about 30 seconds to find it, the $20 covered a little more than the shipping, and it saved me a trip to the mall. Sweet!
The Bottom Line
Spend within your means. As much fun as giving is, it’s nice to be able to give all year long. My husband and his sister have a long-standing tradition that works great; instead of spending on each other (and families) for Christmas, (when we all get so much anyway), we exchange gifts on our birthdays. That spreads out the expense, as well as the joy.
Thanks for reading today. Feel free to post a comment by clicking the “No Comments” button below. I’d love to hear how others save money and/or find discounts during the Holidays.
Find more ways to truly enjoy the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, then come back here and share them with all of us!
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This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on November 27, 2006