It’s the time of year once more when many of us get loads of cash from year-end bonuses. With extra juice in our pockets it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that comes with the holidays and many will go into hyperactive spending mode. Before you dash to the stores for some frenzied shopping or gear up for a week or two of non-stop celebrations, think about what this reckless spending can do to your financial health. I don’t want to sound like a party pooper but is it really worth doing all these only to greet the New Year with a headache and an empty wallet or worse, a much bigger debt.
Enjoying the holiday season need not be expensive. It will be a far more pleasant experience for you if you can wrap up the holidays with plenty to spare in your bank account. Here are some tips on how you can save money in this season of sharing.
[ Read on to know the tips on how to save ]
Take stock of your money. You can’t manage what you don’t know. You have to know exactly how much extra money you will receive this Christmas so you can budget accordingly. Do not plan to spend money you are not sure of receiving.
Break the law. Parkinson’s law that is, which states that “expenses will always rise in direct proportion to income.” Receiving a fat year-end bonus is no excuse for splurging during Christmas. Although expenses will definitely increase during the holidays, there’s no law that says you have to spend all that extra money. Set aside a portion of your bonus for savings (and as a gift to yourself) and make do with what is left. It’s always a good idea to set a limit to your holiday spending.
Make a list. A good holiday spending plan makes use of a list of all the things you need to buy.
List down the names of the people you want to give gifts and set a budget for each. Let your money go a long way by giving one gift to a whole family or a group of people instead of buying presents for each individual. Take an inventory of items you already have that can be used as presents so you can further trim the list. Resist buying anything that is not on your list even if it is on sale. Since it’s not on your list then you don’t need it.
Use cash. Spend 30% less by paying in cash for all your holiday expenses. Using your credit cards makes shopping easier but harder to monitor and could lead to overspending. If you are afraid to bring cash (because criminal elements are also very active during Christmas), then charge it to your card. Just make sure you pay the whole amount when it falls due next month. And don’t forget to keep track of your expenses (whether in cash or charged) to avoid overspending.
Avoid expensive gifts. You cannot buy more love or friendship with expensive gifts. Choose an inexpensive gift that holds a special meaning to the person you’re giving it to. For instance, a distant lolo & lola will absolutely love a framed picture of your family which shows their adorable ‘apos.’ You can also consider giving low-cost gifts that you created, like home-made ornaments or baked goodies. A book is also a good alternative; it’s a present you can open again and again. For most, a greeting card will do just fine but make yours different by including a brief update of what has been happening to your family in the past year (or years if you haven’t done this for a while). It may be a cliché but when it comes to giving gifts, it’s still the thought that counts!
Compare prices. It really pays to make an extra effort to compare prices. Even adjacent stores sometimes have different prices for the same item. The little savings you get from buying items with the cheapest price will add up to a substantial amount. When buying expensive things like furniture, appliances or electronic gadgets, it’s a must to compare prices; you can save hundreds or thousands if you shop around first.
Don’t spoil your kids & inaanaks. You don’t have to give in to your children or godchildren’s Christmas wish list. I was appalled with a TV ad which declared something like, “if you really want your inaanak to love you give him a playstation.” Can you blame me if I say that businesses promote a culture of reckless spending in our society. Do not give an expensive item, even if you can afford it, especially if it’s something that can do more harm than good. Doing so could shape in the child’s mind the notion that expensive equates to more love. The only exception to buying an expensive an item is when it’s really useful, a computer for example (but less the games of course). Consider opening an account for your children to teach them early on about savings and frugality. It may seem a dull present to them but they’ll thank you many years later for such a boring but ultimately priceless gift.
Potluck dinner. Food and drinks for parties and noche buena make up a good chunk of holiday expenses. For large family reunions, save a lot by asking everyone to bring their share of food & drinks; cost-wise this beats catering or buying party food packages from restaurants by a mile. Don’t foot the bill for the whole occasion; people will enjoy the party more knowing that they’ve contributed something to the affair.
Go out of town. This is a favorite cost-saving measure for some politicians. You see, Christmas is a time when constituents swarm the homes of politicos hoping to get a pamasko. Considering that the crowd can easily swell into hundreds or thousands, you can just imagine how much it will cost the politico to keep these voters even slightly satisfied (no, they’re no longer contented with P20). The solution: get out of town and go on a vacation which will often cost less. Use the same strategy and save yourself from having to deal with relatives and friends (some you have never seen before) who take advantage of your generosity.
There are other things you can do with your extra money which can help improve your financial health. One is to attend a training program to boost your skills and enhance your chances of getting promoted or landing a higher-paying job. You can also use the extra money to pay down your debt, build up your emergency fund or invest in a mutual fund, UITF or a business to make it grow and work for you.
Finally, be generous in sharing your blessings to those who have less in life because this is what this season is really all about. Remember, genuine generosity attracts more riches. As the old saying goes, “to give is to receive!” Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to all.
Alvin T. Tabañag is a registered financial planner and a member of the RFP Institute ( USA ) and the Association of RFPs in the Philippines . He is the founder and training director of AdvantagePlus Consulting & Training, which is dedicated to promoting a culture of savings among Filipinos through financial education. Comments & questions about the article and other queries maybe emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.