Jeanette A. Tucker | 11/23/2005 1:27:32 AM
Overly enthusiastic holiday spending can push a family into financial problems – particularly if they’re already facing extra expenses or loss of income following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
On the other hand, realistic holiday expectations and wise management of your time, money, energy, talent and skills can help you have happy holidays and avoid overspending, according to LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker.
"Challenge yourself to manage holiday spending," Tucker advises, explaining, "You will enjoy the spirit of the season without draining your finances or having to pay for it for months or even years later."
The LSU AgCenter family economist offers her top-10 ways to manage expenses and resources:
1. Look at the big picture. The amount you spend varies depending on family values, finances and circumstances. But don’t spend more than 10 percent of all of your yearly income for holiday expenses. Last-minute spending, recreational shopping or spending haphazardly without limits leads to overspending.
2. If you use credit cards for holiday shopping, charge only the amount that you can safely repay in a few months. If you have multiple credit cards, limit your charges to one card. This will help facilitate bill paying and provide a clear picture of your spending. Evaluate your overall credit picture before shopping for the holidays. Avoid cards with higher annual percentage rates and annual fees. It’s more cost effective to use cards with lower rates and no annual fees.
3. Shop early for gifts that you purchase. Practice wise consumer strategies. Comparison shop for prices, quality and warranties. Read labels and hangtags. Watch for sales. Plan shopping by making a list, checking ads and shopping at stores that are near one another to help you save time and energy.
4. Consider giving something you can make or offer. The best presents don’t always have the biggest price tag. Giving your time is the most precious gift.
5. Look for ways to prune your greeting card list. Expenses for cards and postage add up quickly. Consider sending cards to only out-of-town family and friends who you are not likely to see on the holiday.
6. Try new ways to entertain. Consider co-hosting an event with another family member, friend or co-worker to consolidate time, effort and expense. For special events, evaluate the necessity of a meal – appetizers or snacks may be just fine. Also, consider a potluck dinner as opposed to a lavish buffet.
7. Plan travel expenses. Recent disasters have scattered families and friends throughout the nation. Visiting family and friends can be an essential, yet expensive part of holiday plans. Shop early for best airfares. If driving, include gasoline and potential car maintenance as well as meals and lodging.
8. Consider options for charitable donations. Remembering the less fortunate is an important part of many holidays. Some families donate money to selected charities on behalf of other family members rather than buying gifts for one another. Although a contribution of money is always appreciated, a donation of time is also valuable.
9. Plan holiday spending. Once you know how much you can spend, decide how the money will be used. Start by making a list of the holidays and special occasions you plan to celebrate. Determine how much money you wish to spend for each special occasion. Don’t forget to set aside money for unforeseen occasions such as showers, weddings and office gifts.
10. Spread costs throughout the year. Keep holidays and other celebrations from interfering with your ability to make ends meet by setting aside an equal amount each month. For example, if you estimate that you spend $1,200 per year for holiday and other celebrations, set aside $100 each month. Take out what you need for various celebrations as needed, leaving the bulk of the money for December when you might spend more. Pare it down if you failed to plan this far ahead in 2005, and make a New Year’s resolution to plan next year.
"A realistic and affordable plan for spending your money and your time should always be at the center of your holiday plans," Tucker says, advising, "Develop a plan and carry it out."
The family economist says to make your holidays a time for living, laughing, loving, sharing, caring and learning. These kinds of intangibles are what money can’t buy, but they make a precious, full and abundant life, she points out.
For more information on family economics and a variety of other topics, visit the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com or contact an extension agent in your parish’s LSU AgCenter office.
Contact: Jeanette Tucker at (225) 578-5398 or firstname.lastname@example.org