Preparing for the Holidays: How to Avoid Robbing Your Emergency Savings for Christmas
Brought to you by Your Money Line
The holiday season is fast approaching, and for many, it's a time of joy, celebration, and giving. However, amidst the festivities, there's often a financial strain that can lead people to dip into their emergency savings or even rack up credit card debt. In this article, we'll discuss how to plan and manage your holiday expenses without depleting your emergency savings.
Step 1: Start with a Budget
First, determine your holiday budget. How much can you spend on the expenses associated with this time of year? Ideally, you’ve been saving throughout the year. If not, can you absorb these expenses into your monthly cash flow? If you’re unsure, you will need to do some homework before you can dig into a holiday spending plan. How much can you objectively afford to spend this season? Once you have an established number, we suggest dividing your expenses into three categories: gifts, food, and travel expenses. You can add or remove a category, but we’ll run with these examples for now. Take your budget and divide your spending across all three categories.
- Gifts: Make a list of all the people you want to buy gifts for, set a budget for each person, and write down ideas. Make sure to account for how this budget makes you feel and adjust/reduce the number of gifts or the spend before purchasing. Do not forget to include all gifts such as one you might bring to a host/hostess. Even small gifts such as a centerpiece for the table, flowers, or even nice chocolates can add up quickly. You can also reduce spending on gifts by encouraging gift exchanges or making some yourself! Once you have completed your gift list, review the budget set for each person and make sure it matches the overall amount you have allotted for gifts.
- Food: Food spending can add up quickly around the holidays. If you are bringing a dish to a gathering to share, it likely costs more to put together than something you usually make at home. During the holiday, you may need to pad your budget for extra grocery expenses. In this category, you will also want to include any dining-out expenses.
- Travel Expenses: If your family does not live close to each other, you could have significant travel expenses. Airline tickets, parking expenses, fuel costs, and an increase in food costs add up. To reduce this added stress and alleviate any budget constraints, consider alternate travel options such as driving instead of flying or traveling outside of the holiday season. This is not an ideal solution, but it can be a huge money saver during an already expensive time of year.
Step 2: Execute Your Holiday Plan
Try to follow through with the budget and plan you put together. A plan is only as meaningful as your ability to execute it. Be sure to track your expenses as you go and adjust as necessary. This can be as simple as keeping a list in a notebook, an excel spreadsheet, or downloading an app on your phone to keep track of your budget and gifts purchased. Try to avoid using after-pay or credit cards to make it through the holiday season. This may mean having transparent and potentially vulnerable conversations with involved parties as you make these adjustments.
Step 3: Start Planning Ahead for Next Year
Is there anything you wanted to do differently? While it is fresh in your mind, review how well you stuck to your budget and start a savings plan for the next year. Now would be a great time to open a Benefit Accumulation Account and start setting aside a weekly or monthly amount based on your budget or spending plan for the upcoming year.
Need help preparing your holiday budget? Your Money Line Financial Guides can help. Visit our Your Money Line page to get started.
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