Five Financial Tips to Prepare for the Holidays

This is the full article featured in our Fall 2017 Newsletter by Holly Perez

The holidays are fast approaching. Season’s greetings and good cheer are often coupled with extra expenses. Precious time spent with friends and family
often includes travel, entertaining and gift giving. And just like gifts, the debt can start piling up, quickly turning you into a holiday Grinch. Prevent holiday stress
on you and your money by budgeting now.

Here are five easy financial steps you can take to make the holidays merry and bright:  

Plan early. Whether you prefer online budgeting tools, spreadsheets or pen and paper – it’s important to make a list and check it twice. Map out what you
plan to spend, and stick to it! Look ahead to what you will actually buy, from presents to decor to special foods and even travel – it’s important to consider all
your potential purchases. Once you’ve made your list, figure out exactly how much money you will have to spend, and don’t forget to factor in wrapping paper,
holiday cards and postage. The little extras can throw your entire budget off track if you’re not careful. Creating a list and planning your budget for the coming
weeks makes it easier to make adjustments as needed once December arrives.

Save a little at a time. There’s no better time than now to start saving for the holidays. One easy strategy is to set aside a certain amount from each paycheck
that will go strictly toward holiday-related purchases. Open a holiday savings account that you can deposit money into all year round. That way, you’ll not only
have money saved for when you’re ready to start your holiday shopping, you’ll earn interest, too.

Cash in rewards. If you earn rewards points on your credit cards or through other loyalty programs, now is the time to check your balances. Redeeming points
for merchandise or gift cards can take four to six weeks for delivery, so now is a great time to start cashing out. Some credit cards are running special promotions
to earn extra points during this time of year. You might even get bonus rewards for buying toys or making grocery purchases. Find out what promotions can help
you maximize your rewards. You could get some of your holiday purchases for free when you are savvy about your credit card use.

Get real with the family. If last year’s spending got out of control, now is a good time to sit down and establish some financial guidelines. Although watching
children open gifts is priceless, the cost to purchase the gifts can be overwhelming. Parents should set boundaries on how much to spend on each child. By doing
so, you’ll stay within budget and resist the temptation to keep buying. Get creative by buying gifts the whole family can enjoy together such as games, movie tickets
or plan a fun day out.

Secret Santa gift exchanges, making charitable donations in honor of each other, cookie swaps or organizing a gift-free potluck family dinner are fun and affordable
ways to enjoy time with loved ones while keeping the costs down.

Start baking, and get crafty. Many recipes for cookies and cakes allow you to bake treats and then freeze them. Prepare these now, and then all you’ll have to do
is pop them in the oven later when you need them. Save money by buying baking supplies in bulk and prepping multiple recipes at the same time.

Another great way to prep for the holidays and save money is to give homemade gifts, which are often the most thoughtful and treasured. Get your creative juices
flowing now and work on projects in the coming weeks, doing a little each day. You won’t have much to worry about by the time December rolls around.

A dash of planning and a sprinkle of creativity now is the perfect recipe to make your holidays financially stress-free. With these tips, you’ll make smart money choices
and be able to focus on what really matters during the holidays – being surrounded by those you love.
Original Post Nov. 6, 2014, at 8:50 a.m