Budgeting Tips For The Most Wonderful/Expensive Time Of The Year - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Budgeting Tips For The Most Wonderful/Expensive Time Of The Year

Budgeting Tips For The Most Wonderful/Expensive Time Of The Year

By Joe Lowry, Jr.

In what might be the most famous version of the song, Andy Williams called the Christmas season “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And it can be, with some mindful attention to managing holiday expenses. Americans spend around $1 trillion every year during the holidays, and it can be a stressful time with many factors influencing choices. I am going to share a few ideas that can make this process go more smoothly.

First, remember why you are giving gifts. For many, the season is rooted in meaningful spiritual tradition. Focusing on the “reason for the season” has helped our family avoid going overboard in our gift giving and keeps expectations more grounded. Regardless of the meaning you ascribe to the holidays, avoiding comparisons to other people can help you avoid post-gift regrets. Just because your sister goes to the limit every year does not mean that you must, or that you should!

Next, set an overall limit on how much you can spend. Avoid “Buy now, pay later” options. These have expanded to the point where almost anything can be paid for in installments. The best gifts are the ones you don’t have to pay for long after the thrill of giving has passed.

Now, make a list of the people you want to give gifts to. It’s natural to want to give to those who have given to us, but if you can’t afford to reciprocate, acting on obligation can breed resentment. Focus on the people for whom your gift will have the greatest meaning. You might identify low- or no-cost options for the people you care about who don’t make the budget list cut.

Finally, assign a dollar amount to each of those people, and stay within it! This can be even more effective when you focus on gifts with meaning. If your loved one already has everything you can think of, why not write a sincere letter of gratitude or set aside quality time to do something with them that they love doing?

For some, another good method is to follow a theme:

  • Something to read
  • Something to wear
  • Something to play with
  • Something to eat

You can add to or remove categories that better fit your needs and situation. Finding a gift by category can limit the need for the exact-dollar-amount-equality in gift-giving, which can be especially hard in families with multiple children. If everyone receives the same categories, comparing is harder to do.

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One other bit of advice: communication is key to the success of any plan, financial or otherwise. Partners should talk about what makes the holiday meaningful to avoid misunderstanding or hurt feelings. Most unhappiness is the result of unmet expectations. Now that my children are older, we find that family experiences are a better use of our resources. By sharing that focus with our children, our holiday giving combines meaning and impact and hopefully a legacy that will last beyond “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Joe Lowry, Jr. is Managing Partner of Lowry Financial Advisors, Inc. Advisory Services offered through Lowry Financial Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. Securities and additional Advisory Services available through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC. Lowry Financial Advisors, Inc. is located at 12921 SW 1st Rd, Suite 215, Tioga, FL 32669

Lowryfinancialadvisors.com, 352-333-7990

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