Mrs. Rhee

Now that you’ve got your mind right from Part I and Part II, you’re ready to put your plan into action with my top 9 holiday spending tips:

1)   Establish a Realistic Budget and Use the Envelope System:
Take a realistic look at your finances and bills and establish a budget for (1) holiday food and (2) gifts. Allocate amounts for each and place in two separate envelopes, labeled accordingly. Seeing it in writing does two things: (1) it forces you to make a contractual agreement with yourself, which is more difficult to break and (2) it serves as a receipt holder to keep a running total of your spending.

2)    Make a List and for Food and Gifts:
Lists help you stick to a budget,  so make a list of your desired food items and have your children to list out 20-25 items they would like for Christmas.  Of course, they will not get everything on their list, but a list this long gives you the flexibility to get the most affordable items. Give each child a budget and ask them to pick the top 5 items that fit within their individual budgets. This teaches children about budgeting and let’s them know that they will not get everything they want.

3)   Decrease Your Holiday Decoration Budget:
Want to save money on a Christmas tree and ornaments? Get a $5.00 miniature tree (or maybe 2) from your discount store and decorate it with all those the kids’ meals toys that you are constantly picking up. Use ordinary gift wrapping ribbon to hang them on.  That is always a big hit in my home.

4)    Stick to Your List and Use Coupons:
This holiday season, stores are competing for your hard-earned dollars, so try to shop at stores that offer deep discounts and coupons. With your lists in hand, make every effort to only buy from stores that you have a coupon to.  If you don’t have a coupon, move onto the next item on the list.  Your goal is to get the items on your list at the best possible prices.

5)    Stock Up During the Holiday Season for Everyday Goods
Grocery stores offer great buys during the holiday season, so if you can afford it, pick up extra everyday items, cans, packages of food, drinks and water during this holiday season. Grab the advertisements of your local grocers and compare it to your list, then choose the store with the best deals.

6)    Need Help? Well, Ask For It.
If you are having difficulty buying enough food, do not be afraid to ask for assistance.  There are many churches and organizations that are willing to lend a helping hand.  If you’re a member of a church, start there. After all, a church’s first priority is filling its member’s spiritual and physical needs.

7)   Shop Early and Get the Best Deals.
The best deals are appearing earlier and earlier because retailers want to get a jump start on their sales. So instead of a four-week shopping window in December, there are now eight shopping weeks, including all of November.  This extended shopping period does two things: (1) it reduces stress by giving you more time to get your shopping done and (2) it give you a better selection to choose from. Use both to your advantage.

8)    Don’t Use Credit. Period.
If you can’t pay cash for it, can you really afford it? If you can’t, then using credit really makes no sense, since you’ll end up paying more in the long run in fees and loan-shark type interest charges.

The “buy it now pay later” philosophy is a major cause of stress, even for those who say “credit cards are not bad if you use them responsibly” or “I pay my bill off in full monthly, so I don’t pay interest”.  Just say no to credit and credit cards, especially with the new credit card legislation coming down the pike in February 2010.

9)    Don’t Feel Guilty or Pressured About Your Shopping Budget
Do not allow yourself to feel pressured into spending money on anything you feel is not a wise decision or just flat out too much money.  Remember no drama.  The days of “keeping up with the Joneses’” are over.  Personal bankruptcy is at an all time high (Google former NBA star Antoine Walker and his 110 Million dollars) and people have believed for far too long that money will buy peace and happiness.  To simply put it:  It can’t.

That’s it for now.  Take these things to heart.  Take control of your life this holiday season and be radical and remember to keep it real (with yourself) and drama free!

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