Financial ‘holiday hangover’

These smart moves help you keep expenses down
By Doreen Friel
Financial  ‘holiday hangover’

Is your family heading off for a winter adventure this holiday season? Look for good deals now, instead of waiting until December to book flights and rooms. And remember you can save substantially on travel if you are willing to go during off-peak times.

The holidays are right around the corner, and if you’re like most people, travel and festivities can put quite a dent in your wallet. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right planning now, you can avoid paying for the holidays well into next year.

Here are some smart moves to help control your expenses and keep you from racking up a lot of holiday-related debt.

Consider how you will get there

If you’re not celebrating locally, try to determine the most economical way to get to your destination. Can you drive, or is it essential that you fly? For example, if you have to transport three or more people, driving a distance of 6–8 hours or less might save a significant amount of money. If you need to fly, consider purchasing your plane tickets as early as you can. Over the past few years, airline tickets have risen as the holidays approached.

Gifts, gifts and more gifts?

Let’s be honest: Do you overspend on gifts? Talk with your friends and family about cutting back this year — perhaps through a group activity, such as a “Secret Santa,” where there’s a set budget and each person buys for just one other person. Some families agree to buy only for children. Or set a limit of one gift each. But if you want to keep exchanging gifts, buy now if they are on sale. Generally, the closer you get to Christmas, the fewer sales there are.

Pay cash for presents

Paying for your purchases in cash can help avoid staggering credit card bills (paying interest makes the gift cost more) after you’ve rung in the New Year. Using cash will also make you more aware of what you are spending. Just remember to get your gift receipts so you have a record.

Consider when you’ll celebrate the holidays

It’s not for everyone, but some people celebrate the holidays at different times. For example, they buy gifts for loved ones at post-holiday sales and celebrate Christmas (as far as exchanging gifts) a few days later or on New Year’s Day. If your gift is a family vacation, you can save substantially on travel during off-peak times, and your destination likely will be less crowded, too.

Post-holiday sales

Following the same “plan ahead” theme, it’s not too early to think about the 2014 holidays. Take advantage of sales after Christmas. Buy holiday décor items you need and gifts that will keep until next year for loved ones.

About the Author

Doreen Friel is a marketing communications professional who produces materials for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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