Ask Mr. Manners

Holiday savings

It’s the holidays, and once again time to start selecting the perfect gifts to give away to loved ones. As much as we don’t necessarily want to think about the price tags associated with those perfect gifts, it may be time to set your strategy. You don’t want to be that person who overspent your Christmas budget last year and didn’t pay off your Christmas bills until Easter! Here are five things I have found helpful when trying to hang on to more green and keep you out of the red during the holiday season.

Make a list

Don’t dismiss this perennial piece of advice as too simplistic. Writing down which stores you’ll visit and which gifts you plan to buy helps focus your shopping excursion and makes the chore more pleasant because you don’t get caught up in holiday hysteria. And need I point out that you’ll spend less money than if you rush from store to store snapping up “bargains” on a whim! 

Keep a running tally of your credit-card spending

When you come home from a day of shopping, immediately subtract what you’ve spent from your checking-account balance. Not only does that give you a visual record of how much you’ve spent, but also it ensures that you’ll have enough money in the account to pay the bill in full when it arrives.

Pay cash

No, that’s not hopelessly old-fashioned. Recently I heard a podcast where the host shared that for the holidays, they always pay in cash, preferably $100 bills. The bank teller may look at you strangely when you ask for hundreds, but it makes you think twice when you go to buy something. You really don’t want to break a Benjamin!

Think outside the gift box

Plenty of alternatives are less expensive, and more fun, than buying a gift for every sibling, in-law, niece, and nephew. Instead, have a family gift exchange in which you each choose one name and put more thought than money into selecting a single gift.

Count your pennies

A few weeks ago I was waiting for my sandwich in a deli around the corner from my office. When I bent down to pick up a dime from the floor, a gentleman standing next to me struck up a conversation. He told me he always picks up coins (even pennies) and tosses them into a big jar, along with the change from his pockets every day. That’s the money he uses to buy his holiday gifts — and every year it adds up to between $900 and $1,100!

Regardless of the tactics you use when selecting your gifts, what is important about the holidays is spending time with those that we love. While it can be exciting to open a shiny new package, I find it ironic that some of the best gifts I have ever received did not come with a bow.

As you are selecting gifts for your loved ones, it is incredibly important to treasure the time you spend with them. I hope that you each have a great holiday, and I look forward to catching up in the New Year.

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