How to Keep Your Holiday Spending in Check

Every November in recent history, consumers have been sounding off, becoming increasingly agitated about the fact that retailers seem to want us to forget Thanksgiving altogether.

In the past, Black Friday has traditionally started off the yearly holiday shopping season. It’s called Black Friday because in years past, it could often give retailers the push needed to tip them over into profitability (being in the black), instead of ending the year unprofitable (in the red).

In order to encourage shoppers to spend money on more than just one day, many big box stores have been shifting the beginning of their holiday sales further and further back on the calendar. This year, many of these stores are seemingly ignoring Thanksgiving altogether, keeping their stores open for all or part of the holiday.

If watching the holiday shopping season slide earlier and earlier leave you scratching your head, well, there’s a reason why retailers want to blur the lines between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The National Retail Foundation forecasts that holiday shoppers plan to spend less money this year, which has been a trend since 2008. Every year since then, consumers have been spending approximately 2 to 4% less on their holiday shopping, pushing stores toward more drastic action. Although complaints about blending the two holidays together have been ricocheting around the Internet, (and even employees who will be working on Thanksgiving have expressed their unhappiness), more and more consumers have reported that they plan to participate in early holiday shopping events.

Why would consumers participate in something that they’re ultimately against? It boils down to what “makes the world go-round”: money. If you’re one of those consumers weighing the pros and cons of saving a few dollars versus not wanting to encourage retailers in their efforts to create a holiday mash-up, take a minute to come up with an alternative that works for you.

When we really stop and think about it, doesn’t everyone we know already have everything they need? Aside from a million dollars and a yacht, I mean. With some exceptions, most of us give gifts just to give them, which means they often end up being meaningless, useless and in the end, a pointless reason to spend money that we don’t have lying around.

3576571288_8f088880c1Photo courtesy of Isaac Wedin

Every day, we make it our mission to help our clients get their finances in order. One piece of advice we give is to avoid spending money that you don’t have. Especially this year, if you’re upset and/or angry about stores opening up for the holiday season on Thanksgiving, make a statement by doing something a little different.

  • Make your own photo cards. Instead of shelling out tons of money to have a photo company make them for you, set up a backdrop in your own home using a sheet or solid curtains. Take a family photo with a tripod, then import the photo to Powerpoint to add text and designs. Print them on photo paper at home if you can, or simply send them to your local printer to be printed as regular photos instead of cards. Even cheaper: send an e-card!
  • Give the gift of experience. Instead of following through with your “obligation” to buy gifts that may ultimately end up on the recipient’s yard sale table next year, give someone the gift of time with you. Plan a day of fun adventures for young children who are close to you (zoo, aquarium, movies with popcorn, visit family out of state). Adults could pool their money and take a vacation somewhere warm with the entire family!
  • Give the gift of food. Especially if you love cooking or baking (and have a knack for it), sharing the wealth of delicious food or baked goods is a wonderful way to stay in the tradition of gift giving without the risk of your gift being unwanted or unneeded.  Everyone loves food!
  • Offer up your services. If you’re not the chef in the family but have another admirable talent, give the gift of your services FREE of charge. Give out homemade coupons offering to babysit so friends can spend a night out alone, for example.
  • Shower them with flowers. For those who live in warmer climates (or those who keep a greenhouse going year-round), consider creating a luscious arrangement of your home grown blossoms. Giving arrangements that can thrive indoors is the best idea, so your gift recipient can brighten up their home’s interior through the cold winter months.
  • Use your words to create a gift. Have a talent for writing? Write a short book about a child near to your heart, or perhaps some framed poetry for your adult friends.
  • Make a Craft-in-a-Bag. Hit up a few craft stores and peruse their clearance sections. Some thrift stores often have bags of miscellaneous craft items for extremely affordable prices, too. You can give a child hours of fun for a mere few dollars.

If you’ve got children who also want to get into the holiday spirit, help them come up with gift ideas that won’t take a huge bite out of their allowance, or, in many cases, your own wallet once again.

  • Frame it. Help your child create a meaningful picture collage to put in a pretty frame as a gift for grandparents, their other parent, or aunts and uncles.
  • Play it up. What kid doesn’t like hamming it up for the camera? With your help, they can act out a fun play while you man the camera. Their first dramatic debut will be a unique gift that close relatives won’t soon forget.
  • Go extreme. Couponing isn’t only good for groceries! Children and teens who are on a spending budget can make coupons offering their services for almost anyone. Things like car washing, raking leaves, making dinner, one free night of babysitting, snow removal and cleaning are all things that many people would be quite happy to receive.

Most importantly, plan ahead so that you can execute some or all of these money saving suggestions. While these ideas may require more time, if you plan well enough in advance, you’ll never have to charge another thoughtless gift to your credit card again. As a result, after the holidays are over, you’ll be left in good spirits about the great gifts you gave, and your credit score will be in good standing, too.

Maybe you can have your turkey and eat it, too!

One Response to How to Keep Your Holiday Spending in Check

  1. Pingback: Got Gift Cards? Spend them Wisely This Year | Veitengruber Law

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