Feature Articles: Financial Information & Tips
Reducing holiday financial stress
Suzi McGarvey, former Extension Associate, University of Missouri Extension
Reviewed by Brenda Procter, M.S., State Specialist & Instructor, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension
With the holidays approaching soon, many people begin to feel
the financial stress of the season. You can lessen the anxiety you
may feel during this time of the year by planning purchases in advance.
Consider the following tips for a more enjoyable holiday season:
- Make a list of the people you will need to buy for and how much you plan to spend on each person.
- Determine how much in total you plan to spend, and if this figure seems too high, make adjustments in your planned purchases.
- Try to avoid the temptation of paying for all of your purchases with a credit card when you do not have the money to pay it in total. Avoid thinking that you'll just “pay it off later.” If you cannot afford a particular item, look for something similar but less expensive or search for an alternative present. Set a limit and try to stick to it.
- Be wary of store promotions. Offers of “buy now and pay later” sometimes have hidden clauses that allow interest to accrue until your first payment. Read through all paperwork before signing it, and do not be afraid to ask the store clerk questions regarding the promotion. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Be creative with your gifts. Try making homemade items or giving personalized gifts that offer your services for things such as an evening of free babysitting.
- A donation to a local charity may make more of a lasting impression than a store-bought gift. Use money that you would spend on friends and family to make one larger donation to one specific charity or give smaller donations to each family member's favorite charity. Call local food pantries, shelters and charities to find out what they need during the busy holiday season. (Review tips on giving to charities so that you know how to put your donation to the best use.)
- If you're hosting a family dinner, ask others to bring a dish.
- Pay attention to return policies for items you purchased.
- Keep your receipts. If you need to return something later, having your receipt will speed up the process and you will have a better chance of getting your money back.
- Shop alone. A tired spouse or child may encourage you to impulsively buy some items so they can get home sooner.
- Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. Know what you're looking for before you enter a store or tell the sales clerk that you are looking and will let them know if you need help with something.
- Search through clearance racks for sale items. Shop at discount stores for gifts for children, neighbors and co-workers.
- Don't wait for the last minute to do your shopping. You may be more tempted to purchase higher priced items if you are in a hurry or don't have time to comparison shop. If you spread your shopping out over several weeks or months, you won't have to come up with so much money at once.
- After the holiday season, start saving for the next one. Put aside a little each month or look for sale items through the year that could be saved for the holiday season.
Last update: Monday, November 14, 2011