Given the timing, you may be expecting words of wisdom offering creative alternatives to Halloween junk food.
With a party invitation in hand and excitement in her voice, my daughter bestowed the same expectation on me during breakfast. Sadly, I had to defer her to Pinterest, just as I will recommend to you. Frankly, enjoy a bit of candy. There is no evidence occasional consumption will cause your demise, just chew well. On the other hand, a far scarier health risk is on the horizon, that’s why now is the time to plan.
Did you know that money is a leading cause of stress for Americans? Based on data from last year, Gallup reported the mean amount spent on holiday gifts, per adult, in the U.S. was a whopping $885. This is exclusive of additional expenditures, such as travel, charitable donations, food and beverages.
With that perspective, it’s clear how stress can quickly elevate when credit card bills post in January. Knowing debt recovery can take months, stress will become chronic. The exact impact of stress on health is somewhat elusive, perhaps because everyone manages it differently. Regardless, most of us prefer to avoid it.
If you agree, then start financial planning now. Here some tips to establish, save for and stay within a budget. With implementation, you’ll emerge from the holidays financially stress free, or at least not worse off.
Establish a holiday budgetAssess your budget using the 50/20/30 rule. – 50% of income to monthly essentials, such as rent/mortgage, utilities and food (needs).
– 20% of income to debt, such as credit cards, car or student loans (needs).
– 30% of income to desirable living expenses (wants) – aka all the things you don’t have to have. Your holiday budget comes from this bucket.
Distinguish needs from wants. Confusing the two can lead to overspending.Minimize the cost of your needs. You need utilities, but you want to keep windows cracked for fresh air, while cranking up the heater to stay warm. Saving for the holidays Remember, two dollars saved once may not make a difference, but two dollars saved multiple times a day over time will.
Purchase generic brands of food and use what you have.Reduce number of meals eaten out by one or two a week.Cut your habits in half (OK, a third?): tobacco, alcohol, specialty coffees, hair and nail care.Drive less, walk more.If traveling for the holidays, purchase airline and hotels now, prices will go up.Decorate minimally or upcycle household items, again defer to Pinterest.Practice energy saving tips at home with ideas provided by U.S. Department of Energy, https://bit.ly/2nFJur3. English and Spanish versions available.Arrange a gift exchange – give one, get one and only one.Stay within your budgetReassess who and what is most important over the holidays. Travel and hosting expenses give the gift of presence. Those who matter will value this most.Communicate with friends and family about gift giving. Taking the pressure off yourself in turn takes the pressure off them.Create a cash bank for holiday expenses. Avoid temptation to dig out the credit card when your holiday budget is gone. Nicole Clark is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461.Nicole Clark