— By KATHY SMITH
Every year thousands of Americans go into debt over the holidays because Santa and his elves went a little over budget. With Christmas shopping, gas prices and holiday parties, it is no wonder we have trouble staying out of debt.
Dr. Nancy Porter, Clemson University Extension Family Resource Management specialist, says that it is easy to go over budget, as there are so many expenses most people forget to calculate into their holiday budge. The way to avoid overspending is to plan ahead.
It is important to have a written plan including all expenditures. This is also a great time to teach children about money management, as it is never too soon to begin teaching them how to make and stick to a budget.
The holidays can often be stressful, especially with all of the shopping, entertaining, traveling and planning. These activities can be taxing not just on you, but also on your budget. This time of year often includes a lot of eating out and not just for special parties.
In the hustle and bustle of shopping, it is common for people to just eat while they are out, rather than cooking. However, this expense is often forgotten from the planned budget. It is also common to forget to add in babysitting, and car maintenance. These should be planned for.
People are usually paying more for food, drinks, decorations, postage, greeting cards and charitable contributions during this time as well. To cut down on these expenses, it is suggested to have a potluck get together, where everyone can bring a favorite decoration items, dish or drink. This allows everyone to share the burden of the entertainment.
Sometimes family traditions can be costly. Eliminating one that has less meaning can help.
Gifts are the largest category in the holiday budget. These can often have more emotional ties and guilt feelings. Sometimes they are the more difficult to cut down on. But if this cannot be slimmed down, it is likely that you will end up with higher credit bills in January.
There are many ways to cut down on holiday gift lists. Start ahead of time by telling people that you are trying to save money this holiday season, they may be more forgiving for not receiving a gift from you.
Try creative gift ideas such as homemade presents such a recipe box of typed recipes or a scrapbook of memories. Other ideas are to create a memory together as a group or family.
Instead of giving gifts, do something fun together, such as taking the family to the theater or going on a short vacation together.
Gifts that can be enjoyed by the whole family also cut down on the number of presents. For example a family with several children might buy a DVD player or stereo system which everyone can enjoy. While this gift can be costly, it may end up being cheaper that buying smaller gifts for everyone.
Giving a charitable contribution in someone’s name is a way to take care of two obligations at once, because it gives a gift to a loved one, while still giving to the charity.
Shop at stores on major sale days to save money. Even if it means fighting crowds.
Begin shopping on the Internet. This can often save money and involve the temptations to buy more than you have planning.
Draw names among family members or coworkers can often help cut down on the number of people for whom you must buy gifts.
Source: Clemson University