Personal Finance

October 7, 2013

Make a down payment on the holidays, and pay them off early

Shoppers have about 10 weeks if they want everything under the tree or hidden in the attic before the holidays.

Don’t hate me for mentioning the holidays already. Unlike retailers, my purpose is actually saving you money. I know it seems like a long time away, but Santa and his sleigh will be here in no time. And so could that giant hole in your budget, if you don’t start saving now.

We have about 10 weeks, assuming you want everything under the tree or hidden in the attic before the holidays. Still, it’s more than enough time to sock away a little every week to soften the budget blow.

Think how good it would feel to begin the New Year without the burden of holiday debt. Here are a few ways to get there.

Get a number.

How much do you want to spend on gifts? Think of all the family members, friends, coworkers and others to whom you regularly give a present. Put everyone on a list, along with an estimated cost for their gifts, and add it up. Whatever the number, divide by how many weeks you have left. That’s your weekly savings goal.

Call a meeting.

If you’re a family of more than one, sit down with everyone in the household and discuss a holiday budget. Brainstorm ways to save every week, in order to afford the gifts everyone wants and wants to give. Here are three suggestions: Redbox instead of the box office, one less night dining out, and try a spending-free weekend. It’s a great opportunity to help children associate gifts and giving with giving up a little.

Keep it separate. You’ve heard me say this before. Set up a simple savings account at your credit union, preferably one you can easily transfer funds to and monitor. Give it a name like “Santa” or something. It’s important to separate the money you save from the account you use for spending. Or else it’s difficult to see and too easy to burn.

Space it out. You don’t have to wait until Black Friday to find great deals. Get your list made and start early. The less pressure you are under, the more sound, level-headed buying decisions you will make. Find the best price or price match at different stores and utilize coupons.

Start now.

The clock is ticking, but don’t stress. Just start saving today. Set up your holiday budget and your account. Start doing without, going without, whatever it takes to build it up. Keep your eyes peeled for good deals and start chipping away at that list. Slow and steady wins the race!

I use these tips every year and I am happy to say that every holiday season I am able to focus on the spirit of the season versus the amount of money I am spending.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click

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