Budgeting for the Holidays – Part One

The holidays will be here soon and they are a “season”, not just a singular day or event; and, there can be several events! There may be parties and celebrations where you are expected to bring a dish, and/or provide a gift(s) and also meet family and friends out for lunches and dinners. The costs add up!

The holiday season can also include other celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries or even weddings. Finally, winter is the time where added expenses can come into play such as higher utility (e.g., heat, electric) bills, and unexpected car expenses like batteries and tires that need replacing.

How do you cover these expenses without completely exhausting your budget and getting yourself in post-holiday debt?

Consider several of the suggestions below to help reduce the expense and stress of the holiday season. Ideally, an early and clear plan communicated to your family and friends can help a lot!

  1. Have the list of WHO you will shop for and stick to it! Make agreements with your family and friends as to WHO you will buy for and HOW MUCH you will each spend. It’s very tempting to want to buy “a little something” for others, especially items under $20, but it adds up fast!
  2. If you have large extended family or circle of friends, pick ONE name for each group.
  3. Discuss possible family gifts that you all will enjoy. Start collecting change as a family starting each early each year (January) to help reduce the cost of bigger family gifts. If your children have part-time jobs, ask them for $2-5 a paycheck to help support a significant family gift.
  4. Shopping for items (e.g., at a spring craft show, summer fairs) throughout the year makes a BIG difference! There are sales all year round! It is just a little pre-planning to build your gift inventory throughout the year.
  5. Buy items for your food pantry early, ideally when they are on sale or when you have more spare funds. If your extended family knows you bring a signature dish every year, consider buying non-perishable ingredients early on and then place them in a separate storage area for the holidays. 
  6. Buy food staples at discount stores such as Aldi, Save-A-Lot and Price Rite.
  7. Buy food items in bulk, if possible.
  8. Don’t feel obligated to attend EVERY holiday invite you receive.
  9. Open a separate bank account to systematically save for the holidays. Set aside a manageable amount of money for a bank or credit union account that is offering a high interest rate such as a money market account or a short-term (e.g., 3-6 months) Certificate of Deposit so you have your money in time to shop without incurring any penalties.
  10. Consider making or even baking some of your gifts. Personalized gifts are very memorable. Add a small ($5-$10) gift card if you like.
  11. Shop at small businesses in your area that may have unique and reasonably priced gifts.
  12. Try not to get too caught up in Black Friday deals. Many times, people spend far more on other items than they actually save by battling the crowds and spending a lot of time and gas.

Keep a look out for Budgeting for the Holidays Part Two coming soon!

If you’re dealing with high interest debt payments as well, see what you can save with Parachute’s Debt Management Plan https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/dmp-calculator/

Would you like to meet one-on-one with one of our Financial Counselors to talk specifically about your budget? Check out our Financial Coaching Session https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/services/credit-budget-counseling/#financial-coaching  or call 716-712-2060.

Family Savings Strategies

Family savings efforts can be a great way to reach your financial goals faster and easier. By working as a family team, you can motivate each other, build stronger family ties, and benefit from shared resources.

Here are some ideas to get you started!

  • Set goals common to all. The first step is to get everyone on the same page and agree on what you want to save for. This could be a short-term goal, such as a family vacation, or a longer-term goal, such as buying a boat or even a home! Once you have a common goal, you can start to develop a solid plan to reach it.
  • Create a budget. Once you know what you’re saving for, you need to create a budget that will help you reach your goal. This will involve tracking all your income and expenses to see where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back. Then you can direct your newly found savings toward your family’s goals.
  • Open savings accounts for all family members. This helps everyone feel included and provides great lessons and good money practices for younger children and teens. 
  • Automate savings. One of the best ways to save money is to automate your savings. This means setting up a recurring transfer from your checking account to your savings account each month. This way, you’ll be saving money without even having to think about it. If you have teenagers or young adults who earn a paycheck, they can automate their savings too into a savings account through direct deposit. If you have younger children, they can earn a weekly allowance and place, at least part of it, in a savings account.
  • Set up family savings challenges. A family savings challenge is a fun and motivating way to save money. There are many different types of savings challenges available online, so you can find one that’s right for your family. For example, you could do a 52-week savings challenge, where you save a different amount of money each week. Or you could do a no-spend challenge, where you commit to not spending any money on certain things for certain periods of time. Make it fun and competitive. 
  • Have family savings meetings. Once a month or so, sit down with your family and discuss your savings goals and progress. This is a good time to re-review your budget, make any adjustments as needed, share tips, stay motivated and celebrate your accomplishments.
  • Make saving money fun. For example, you could have a family competition/contest to see who can save the most money in a month or award small prizes for the most creative way to save. Or you could reward yourselves with a special treat when you reach a savings goal.
  • Save change. Use cash whenever possible and save that change in a jar or other space labelled with your goal such as “2025 summer vacation trip.”
  • Consider selling items. Each family member could contribute some unwanted items to a group garage or yard sale to help fund the family goal. Children could host a lemonade stand. Teenagers and young adults could babysit or offer to rake leaves, shovel snow or run errands for neighbors to earn extra money.
  • Reward good grades or reading goals. Consider contributing more funds to the family savings pool if your children attain certain grades in school or read a certain number of books outside of school. 
  • Consider savings matches: If your younger children or teenagers or young adults save $5, consider a 100% ($5 contribution) or 50% ($2.50) match so their savings grow faster and they are encouraged to save even more!   

By following these suggestions, you can develop strong family savings strategies and reach your financial goals and future plans faster!

Parachute Credit Counseling offers group financial education and one-on-one services to help you budget your money, get out of debt, understand and build your credit, and more! Call us at 716-712-2060 or visit us at www.parachutecreditcounseling.org

If you’re dealing with high interest debt payments as well, see what you can save with Parachute’s Debt Management Plan https://parachutecreditcounseling.org/dmp-calculator/