Friday, November 11, 2016

Holiday Spending Tips

With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all coming around the corner really fast I thought I'd give you a few spending tips for this year. They aren't all geared towards penny pinching, because that get's old after awhile anyway.

Instead they are tips to help you blast gift expectations away, take control of your budget, and become more thoughtful in every aspect of your holiday giving. Here are my top 8(the last is my selfishly favorite one) with a quick analysis of each.

1. Make Your Gifts - Going to Macy's or ordering off Amazon might be the convenient thing to do. But assembling your own gift is way worth the effort not only for yourself, but the recipient too.  You'll force yourself to try something you don't normally do(if you're not into making things), and the gift receiver will more likely be forever grateful for the amount of time and thought they know you put into making the gift.  In my experience when people receive homemade gifts they treat them as special family items they cherish for years. Best yet is the gift can be food or anything you desire. So go ahead and give it a try this year. You might save money as a result, but your rewards will be much deeper than that.

2. Contribute to a College 529 Plan - Sure most kids want some plastic junk from Toy's R' Us, but their parents are probably figuring out how the heck they'll pay for lil Johnny's and Susie's college tuition in 10 years.  The beauty about college 529 plans is anyone can make a contribution to one. And your contribution is likely to qualify as a tax free gift.  Making a contribution to a close family member or friend will be greatly appreciated down the road when the new grad accepts their diploma.

3. Give to Charity - This is an often overlooked one by many. Besides the bell ringer outside of your favorite department store there are plenty of charities in need. Plus it's possible your donation can be tax deductible which is a double bonus! Unsure of who to give to? Then check out where you can seamlessly donate to multiple vetted charities supporting a myriad of causes.

4. Use Cash - "What? A logical tip? I thought this was supposed to be a different kind of list?" It is so hold your horses.

If you have trouble keeping a budget then this is the best option for you.  Don't even think about whipping out that credit card or debit card. I don't care how many "points" or "miles" you miss out on since those benefits are quickly eroded once interest charges start hitting your statement. Using cash for many people makes it easier to visualize what they are spending, and obviously keep track of whats left when the pile gets smaller. Use this old fashioned technique to your advantage.

5. Use a Separate Savings Account - This is a slightly advanced tip for those who do well with setting aside money, but might be inclined to touch it.  If you setup a separate savings account specifically for gifts you can accumulate your war chest at your leisure throughout the year.  Plus when it comes time to start buying gifts you'll see exactly how much you have in the bank to spend for the year. Of course you could always choose to spend less, and send the surplus to your retirement IRA.

6. Set a Budget - This might be crazy sounding to some, but setting a budget specifically for the holidays can really help you control your spending.  Research shows that when you write out your plans and limits you're more likely to follow and adhere to them. So go ahead and set specific amounts you'll spend on each person.  Just stick to it!  Use coupon apps and whatever else you can to try and save money for all your purchases. Then compare how you did to what you expected to spend.

7. Set a Timeline - If the Holiday rush can feel overwhelming then you should set a specific time period to do all your shopping. Just select a 2-4 week time period when you'll knock it all out and enjoy the rest of what the season has to offer!

 Also related it's a good idea to buy gifts ahead of time in the summer, or even spring. Why? Certain items normally put on sale in those months might not be discounted come fall and winter.  If you see a household item you know would make a great gift and it's selling for 50% off in July then snag it! Why pay full price a few months later if you don't have to. You shouldn't be constricted to buying gifts a few months each year.

The third tip in this one is to set time aside for actual people! Remember the whole point of these days is to spend time with those you love and enjoy being with. So fire up the ol' email and text machines to start planning some special 1 on 1 time!

8. Give the Gift of MAD Consulting - Hey it's my blog here!  Seriously though MAD Consulting offers an unparalleled super low unlimited price of $29.99/mth for all your personal finance needs. We can help you setup a 529 account for your kids, help you prepare for retirement, manage all of your investments including those at your employer, and help you figure out ways to save and make more money! Also I offer a discount to Firefighters/EMT's, Police Officers, and Teachers. Plus free consultations for everyone.

Yeah it's really as good as it reads. Nowhere else for that low price can you find a service like this, and someone who deeply cares about your financial well being. All while helping you hit every single goal you have in life. It could be the gift that changes someone's life around. For more info click here and here.

So go ahead and enjoy what the next 7 weeks have to offer, and since I'm a Christian an early Merry Christmas to everyone! Plus  Happy Veterans Day! Make sure you go thank one!

As a side note share a special tradition you have with family and friends in the comment section. That should help get us all feeling good vibes for the season, and would be great to see what other people do.

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