Plan ahead to help lower holiday-related stress and preserve your financial health.
The winter holidays are almost here. Soon, we’ll be exchanging gifts, lighting candles, reflecting on the past and celebrating the future. For many, the delights of the holidays are accompanied by overindulging and overspending — traditions that leave many people dreading post-holiday bills. If you’re looking for ways to lower holiday-related stress, spend an hour making a list that will preserve your financial health.
Make your list
Compiling your list should be a straightforward exercise. Think about last year’s holidays: What would you like to do again? Who will you include on your gift list? Gather your thoughts and write them down, either digitally or with pen and paper. Your list should include:
Entertainment: Think about your favorite holiday events. Will you attend a play or a concert? Drive through a holiday light display? Participate in a cookie exchange? Attend an ice skating or sledding event? Host a holiday get-together for friends or family?
Now, put a price next to each event. Theater tickets may range from $30-$150 per ticket. Holiday light shows cost about $20 to $40 per carload of visitors. Hosting a party for a dozen guests costs upward of $200, on average.
Travel: Many people travel during the holidays. Some visit family and friends in other states or countries, while some just like to get away from it all. If you will be traveling, add the various costs for gas, flights, lodging, meals and other expenses to your list.
Giving: December is the month for giving. Almost one-third of all charitable donations are made in December, and more than 10% of gifts are given during the last 3 days of the year. If you are philanthropically inclined, include the cause and the amount of money you plan to donate on your list.
Gifts: Here’s the biggie — name everyone who will receive a gift from you. The list may include family, friends, co-workers, teachers, doctors, dentists, mail carriers and others who provide valued services during the year.
Now, put the amount you plan to spend next to each name. (Don’t forget to consider shipping costs, which can go up the closer you get to the holidays, and state and local sales tax, which range from 9.55% in Tennessee to nothing in Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.ii)
When estimating expenses, remember that prices on many goods and services have increased so you’ll want to research current costs.
Add it up
Take a deep breath and add up your holiday expenses. Consider the total: Can you afford to spend that amount? Do you want to spend that amount? If the answer is yes, congratulations! The holidays are unlikely to disrupt your financial health.
If the answer is no, don’t stress. There are many ways to reduce spending without draining joy from the holidays. For instance, host a dinner party where everyone gets to bring their favorite holiday dish, or a cocktail party where guests showcase their favorite drinks. Consider having a contest with a special prize for the most well-liked dish or drink.
If your gift list is over budget, think about ways to manage it. For example:
Handcraft your gifts: Googling DIY gifts will bring a wealth of suggestions for handmade presents; clementine wreaths, hand-crafted bath bombs, family cookbooks, cookie cutter candles, propagated house plants and many other ideas. Just remember the goal is to spend less.
Combine your giving goals: Instead of giving gifts to everyone on your list, make a small charitable donation in their names. Alternatively, you could have a tree planted in a national forest (the giftee receives a certificate or card), or give a different gift offered through your favorite charity.
Prioritize young children: Parents want to create memorable holidays for their children. While it may help to prioritize spending more on kids than adults, it’s important to keep in mind that children remember experiences more than items.
Consider your options and adjust your list until your holiday spending reaches a reasonable level.
Set aside the savings you need
Once you’ve completed your list, it’s time to start saving. Open a CIBC Holiday Savings Account that is earmarked for holiday expenses. Then, either transfer the amount you need to save from your regular account into the savings account, or build your savings by setting up an automatic deduction from each paycheck into your holiday savings account.