By Tracy Scott
Fall Into Reality With These End of Year Budgeting Tips And Strategies
The long, hot days of summer are coming to an end and fall is just around the corner.
Along with it are the realities of the financial costs of summer vacations, amusement parks, kid’s activities and hosting BBQs for family and friends that created priceless memories. Lazy summer days meant relaxing your wallet and having fun before the kids went back to school. Without skipping a beat, AFFCU members must be fiscally prepared for the holiday season that can include less than budget-friendly decorations, costly holiday meals, and endless gift-giving opportunities.
How do you put the breaks on spending as you head into the holiday season?
We have ten ways to take the driver’s seat this fall and put you in the best lane for a smooth ride into the New Year.
Deal With Summer Expenses First
Credit cards statements for purchases made up to six weeks ago are calling your name. The first payment on that personal loan you used for a much needed family vacation is coming due after a 45 day grace period. It’s time to make a plan to reduce the overall costs of summer. Gather all of your credit card and loan statements to figure the amount you spent over the summer.
How To Reduce Summer Debt
- If you took out a loan to pay for summer fun, consider refinancing the loan at a lower interest rate.
- If you used a high-interest rate credit card to pay for summer expenses, transfer your credit card balance to a lower interest AFFCU Visa Rewards Card.
- If you incurred both loan and credit card debt this summer, consolidate the debt with a new low-interest personal loan.
Pay less in overall interest charges and lower your monthly payments when you select one of these options. You can avoid overspending on holiday entertaining now that you have room in your budget.
Budget For Holiday Spending
With summer expenses under control; it’s time to look forward to the holiday season. With Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas quickly approaching, you can prepare for various expenses with a simple budget. Planning is critical. Creating and sticking to a budget is the best way to sidestep overspending.
A budget not only involves spending less but not spending at all. The next thing to do to prepare for the holidays is to lower your everyday spending. This is a surefire way to save more money to allow you to enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer.
Try these simple ways to limit everyday spending that can result in significant savings:
- At least twice a week, skip your daily coffee or soda habit
- Avoid takeout food and make dinner at home
- Carpool one week each month
- Don’t buy new when you can borrow books, DVDs, magazines and video games from the library
- Opt for a matinee showing of new holiday movies
Use the money saved by spending less and deposit it into a AFFCU savings account.
Select at least two of our painless holiday spending tips to make a serious impact on your wallet.
Creativity wins the day when it comes to ghosts, goblins and ghouls.
Tip #1: Coordinate a costume exchange for the little ones in the neighborhood. You can co-host the event to keep costs to a minimum. Use the home of your hosting partner and secure commitments from neighbors to bring appetizers, drinks, and tableware. And don’t forget the costumes!
Thanksgiving and Christmas Meals
Holiday meal expenses are the easiest to control if you determine your limits up front and share responsibilities with others.
Tip #2: Pass on new recipes and stick with a traditional menu. This will reduce the chances of purchasing excess ingredients that may or may not be a hit with the family.
Tip #3: Plan the entire meal before heading to the grocery store. We are more likely to pick up an extra side dish or dessert when we don’t pre-plan.
Tip #4: If you are feeding a crowd then buy in bulk from Costco or Sam’s Club. Be careful to size purchases based on guest headcount.
Tip #5: Host a potluck. Offer your home and up to three desserts for the event. Assign the responsibility of bringing meats, side dishes, and dinnerware to guests.
The Best Way To Save On Holiday Meals
Tip #6: Step aside this year and let another family member host Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Offer to bring one side dish.
Of all holiday expenses, Christmas gifts are the easiest category to overspend. Sales are everywhere, and it may be hard to remember that purchases that break your budget are rarely good deals in the end.
Tip #7: Family Gifts
Instead of giving your niece three gifts from each member of your family, give her one gift. Use your rewards points from your AFFCU Visa Rewards Card to buy gifts.
Tip #8: Homemade From The Heart
Gather the family for an afternoon of crafting and bonding. Simple gifts of mason jars filled with red and white candy to more advanced crafts of decorative soaps can keep expenses down. Use excess homemade gifts as holiday décor. Think Scrabble Christmas ornaments.
Tip #9: The Gift Of Time
Offer your time using homemade IOU gift certificates that must be redeemed within 90 days. Popular ideas include washing a teenager’s car, cleaning out the attic or any other chore dreaded by the recipient.
Tip #10: Skip purchasing seasonal table cloths, napkins and plateware in favor of reusing prior year’s decorations. Still want to spice things up? Task a guest to manage decorations this year or ask a co-worker to swap decorations this season. No spending allowed.
New Year’s Plan For Holiday Spending
Before you know it, another year will have passed, and the holidays will be here again. We recommend preparing for next year’s holiday season now.
Remember that budget you created for this year’s holiday spending?
Make sure it includes funds invested in AFFCU’s Add & Earn Share Certificates. A low minimum deposit of $25 is all you need to get started. The Add & Share Certificate Account pays a fixed rate, higher than a regular savings account, and unlike most certificates it allows for unlimited contributions throughout the term. This is a great way to fast track next year’s holiday fund.