Tips for holiday budgeting

(U.S. Air Force graphic by 2nd Lt. Dean Krupka)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — During the holidays most people spend time with loved ones and spread holiday cheer, but it can also be a time when some find themselves in a financial bind.
“The holidays can be a stressful time for many, because most people want to give more than they have or can afford,” said Robert Griffin, Airman and Family Readiness Center community readiness specialist. “Then after Christmas is over, they end up regretting overspending because they’re tight or short on money when the bills come in the New Year.”
While planning is preferred, buying something unplanned can hurt one financially.
“What can get people into trouble is making an impulse buy on an item they know someone wants and putting it on their credit card,” said Cory Carmichael, A&FRC community readiness specialist. “It’s hard to take advantage of a Christmas sale if you’re going to be paying interest on it for the next year. Allocate a certain part of your budget toward the holiday or gift giving. If you need to, try and reduce spending in certain areas like eating out less, or not going to the convenient store as much for certain items.”
Preparing ahead of time is the key to a successful holiday budget.
“Planning for a holiday budget begins in January and not in November or December,” Carmichael said. “Part of an overall budget is to have a savings plan but also Christmas comes every year and we know when it comes. So it’s a matter of planning ahead and putting something away toward that, whether it’s for retirement, vacation or for Christmas gifts.”
It takes consistency and discipline to save for the holidays.
“I recommend someone to make a goal of how much they want to save specifically for holiday gifts in the beginning of the year,” Griffin said. “So say someone has a goal of saving $600 for gifts, they would then need to save $50 per month till December to reach that goal.”
Additionally, one could figure out how much to save by using a spreadsheet to list who they want to purchase a gift for, what the gift is and the cost of the gift, Griffin said. Then after writing the list out, total the amount it will cost for the gifts.
“The best part of using a holiday budget is it keeps you on track for the following year and you’re not falling behind on bills and making minimum payments on your credit cards,” Griffin said. “If you’re having a difficult time with budgeting or with finances, come in and talk to us. We can help you create a spending plan. We have techniques and tools to help you succeed.”
For more information, call the A&FRC at 623-856-6550. In addition to having trained financial counselors, they have free publications, guides, classes and other resources to answer all questions concerning finance. The A&FRC also provides one-on-one appointments.