Pay It Forward
Chelsea Groton Bank NOVEMBER 2015

Mutual Matters



Keeping to Your Budget this Holiday Season

Holiday BudgetingRemember the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future in Charles Dickens' classic story, "A Christmas Carol"? Those ghosts have inspired a timeless strategy for holiday budgeting.


Look back. Review how much you spent last year, what you purchased, and how you paid for it. If you used credit cards, be sure to check how long it took you to pay them off. If you still had Christmas debt on your credit card while on summer vacation, you may want to rethink your approach to the holidays.

Also, did you spend a lot of money on token gifts that were forgotten before the holiday was over? Reconsider certain gift-giving. Maybe you agree to not exchange gifts with certain people, or you could make a donation to a friend or family member's favorite charity in their name.


Make a list. Include not only gifts, but decorations, cards, postage, food, drink, travel and any other special items you know you'll need to purchase.

Decide how much you have to spend.
Set a budget and stick to it. Period.

Shop around. If you've taken time to make a list of who you'll be buying for, it will be easy to think about what to buy for them. Go online for gift ideas and to start comparing prices.

Use cash if possible. Since you've established a budget, done your homework to find the best price and have committed to staying within your budget, shopping with cash will be a cinch. If you do choose to use credit cards, be sure to exercise discipline to stay within your budget.

Track Expenses. Track every dollar you spend—cash, checks and credit cards. It doesn't matter if you use money management software, a spreadsheet or the back of an old Christmas card, just be sure to record how you spend your money. Not only will this keep you on track, but it will also help with returns and in planning for next year.

Focus on being thoughtful and starting new traditions. Most people remember people and events from years past, not the specific gift they got when they were 10. Consider making gifts like baked goods or a personal scrapbook. If family members are older and harder to buy for, encourage traditions that move away from gift giving. "Adopt" a local family in need and provide them with presents instead. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or visit a nursing home as a family event. Or start a tradition of drawing names from a hat and engaging in a swap of some kind, so everyone only buys one gift that is meaningful or fun, and the event becomes memorable.


Shop early. Buy next year's holiday decorations on clearance as soon as the holidays are over. Keep your eyes open for bargains throughout the year and stash them away. Be sure to track your spending so you don't forget what you bought.

Save all year. Make holiday saving a year round commitment by setting up a holiday savings account. Have a set amount of money directly deposited into this account from every paycheck. Or when you pay bills every month, send a check to your holiday account as if you were paying another bill.

With a little planning and some discipline, the holidays can be a time to enjoy with family and friends, without the fear of starting 2016 off in the red.

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