5 Financial 'To-Do's'

Keep Your Holiday Season Fruitful & Enjoyable

The holiday season can be a really big project at our house. Menu planning, shopping, school programs … it can be a whirlwind of activity. I have found that some proactive planning is the key to my preparations and getting all those important things accomplished. It also helps me stay fiscally responsible and keeps my budget realistic.

Below is a checklist of five financial “To-Do’s” that I find helpful in keeping the season both fruitful and enjoyable.

FIVE BEST FINANCIAL PRACTICES HOLIDAY SHOPPING

  1. 1. Set a Realistic Budget. Have you set a reasonable budget? It’s never too late. Ask yourself: How much can I really afford? You may review your current budget and determine how much you spend per month on extras such as dining out, clothes or that cup of coffee. Consider reallocating much of your monthly discretionary budget items, at least in December, to your shopping budget.
  2. 
 2. Scrub Your Gift List. Who is at the top of your list? It’s most likely your immediate family members. Write down each name, a spending limit for each and a gift idea. Go to the next tier: probably close friends and relatives. Do the same thing: write down their names, but allocate smaller purchases per person. Next might come colleagues, teachers, neighbors—anyone you might want to do something for during the season. Look at those and see who you could possibly make that awesome fudge recipe for instead of buying a gift. Keep writing until you have accounted for everyone important to you. After you set giving guidelines, stick to them.
  3. 3. Designate a Solo Shopping Day. Plan one day to knock out the majority of your buying list—alone. Shopping with friends is fun, but when you shop alone, you are a well-oiled shopping machine—you can make it through your gift list much easier and faster. Consider avoiding retail crowds on the weekends by selecting a weekday for your shopping trip. Remember to head out early, and dress for success. Think comfort.
  4. 4. Shop Local–First. Shop the local stores that make Cleveland County what it is. Often, it is in these stores that you find the treasures that become the memorable gifts, the gifts that will be used or cherished for years to come. And remember, shopping locally helps provide jobs and increase local tax revenue that in turn provides for stronger and safer communities. Studies show that for every dollar spent at a locally owned business, 68 percent stays in the local economy. So, shop your neighbors; your community will thank you for it.
  5. 5. Open a Designated Savings Account. If planning for the holidays continually creeps up on you, now is the time to think about next year. Start setting aside money for your expenses on Jan. 1 and establish a separate savings account specifically for 2018. Set up an automatic transfer each month from your checking account to your savings account. Doing this every year will allow you to see how much you’ve allocated for food, gifts and other celebration planning. It’s also a good preventative from accidentally using that money on other things.

My hope is that the tips outlined above will help you enjoy the season, give the perfect gifts–those that will be a joy for others and your budget, and begin a plan for years to come.

Mariann Lawson is senior 
vice president and director of marketing and 
community relations for 
Republic Bank & Trust.