By Charlestien Harris
How did the Grinch really steal Christmas? Well, let me tell you the “real” story! Holiday shopping is a tradition that spans way back, and many people feel obligated to purchase gifts for everybody. However, what often happens is that the Christmas budget you carefully planned has now gone out the window, and you’ve spent more money than originally intended. THAT, my friend, is how the Grinch “really” stole Christmas!
All is not lost because I am going to help you recognize those budget busters before your finances get so out of control that you no longer have that holiday joy. Let’s take a better look at some of the things that might definitely help you prevent the Grinch from stealing your Christmas cheer.
- Unplanned gift purchases. The number one budget buster on my list is the fact that, when it comes to holiday shopping, many purchases are often unplanned. The unplanned gifts during the holiday season can quickly add up and destroy your budget. This is why making that list and checking it twice is so important and essential if you want to keep your holiday cheer. So, when you are sitting down to make that budget, add in some miscellaneous money to cover those unexpected purchases.
- Last-minute gift shopping. Ding, ding, and ding! Now, this one is another budget buster that can absolutely wreak havoc on a holiday budget. It may seem like a great idea at the time, but beware, it’s another budget buster that can sneak up on you fast. I know you want to catch those “last-minute” deals, and sometimes they can be absolutely tempting and quite irresistible. BUT, last-minute shopping can cause you to spend way more on gifts than you had originally planned to spend.
- Not setting a gift price limit. Often, we can feel like if we don’t spend a certain amount of money on a gift, then it just isn’t Christmas. In most instances, that is just not the case. Gifts given with spending limits are, in fact, thinking of others as well as yourself. Gifts given from the heart, such as babysitting for a couple that needs a night off or baking cookies with the grandkids, can mean much more than a gift with a price tag. So, it might be wise to have a conversation with your family as well as friends to set that gift price limit to ensure that everyone can enjoy the holidays without the Grinch creeping in to steal the tender moment of exchanging gifts at the office or on Christmas Day.
- Have you considered the “hidden” costs? This one is one you probably never even thought about. All you know is that you spent X amount of dollars on a gift, and that is that. Right? Wrong. What about the boxes, the filler, the bow, and the wrapping paper? What about the shipping costs? What about the amount of time it takes to prepare a gift for giving? These are all questions that we as consumers rarely think about, but this does not lessen the fact that these extra costs exist and secretly add to the total price of the gift. When you are adding up the real cost of a gift, you should include those costs I mentioned. Ultimately, what you would like to do is stay within that price limit you set with those other costs included.
- Forgetting to create a holiday budget from the start! Now, this one I have been talking about all year. Budget, budget, budget. The Grinch can really steal Christmas in a big way because the extra money we spend on a gift may ultimately be taking away from being able to pay the utility bill or cause you to get behind on your mortgage or even miss a car note. As a financial counselor, it is my responsibility to guide my clients and readers into a routine that will help lessen the financial stress so many are experiencing, especially during this time of year. Please consider creating a budget! Not only during the holiday season but also all year and every year after that. Budgeting is such a critical piece of having a successful financial plan.
During this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget your budget during the holiday season, and I don’t want the “Grinch” to steal your holiday. This is why it is so necessary that I share holiday budget busters with you so you can recognize them, and so they won’t ruin your holiday budget. Just know that the Grinch does not have to steal your Christmas, and you can still enjoy the holidays more comfortably because you know your finances are in good shape going into the new year!
Until next week – stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a financial contributor to DeSoto County News. She is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region.