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NEWS | Nov. 2, 2010

Is the economy affecting your wallet this holiday season? Learn some tips on how to make the most of your money

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer R. Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The holiday season is right around the corner, a magical time of year that is filled with the warmth of family and friends and the joys of gift-giving. Gifts for friends, family members, co-workers, your husband or wife ... But be mindful that while you may want to buy that perfect gift for loved ones, gift-giving can be a financial drain for most American's this year.

Most people during this time of year only plan to only buy a few things here and there, but the majority end up splurging way over the amount they had originally budgeted for.

"The difference between what we plan to spend and what we actually spend is debatable. The sights, smells and sounds of the season typically woo us into buying more than we plan," said Certified Financial Counselor Barbara Lang at the Military and Family Readiness Center at Joint Base Charleston-Air Base.

"Shopping ahead of time gives you time to shop around to get the best deal(s)," she continued. "If you wait until the last minute, you may make an impulse decision and spend more than you planned on spending."

Manage your holiday spending this year by having a plan, have a budget set in place and finally save up for those high-cost items. Remember, when it comes to holiday shopping, the earlier you start, the better off your budget will be.
"Every year people worry about the holidays. By planning ahead and budgeting, you can cut down on stress and anxiety," said Financial Advisor Kim Brown, MFRC at JB CHS-Weapons Station. "It is never too early to start saving for Christmas. The earlier you plan, and the longer you save, the easier your holidays will be."

"My family tries to be more financially prepared during the holiday season by shopping early and setting aside money specifically for presents," said Chief Machinist's Mate Jamie Ydrovo at JB CHS-WS. "We shop by looking for the best sales and we always try to buy things with cash instead of putting it on credit cards."

Saving money may not be part of a person's agenda due to children and family expenses, pet emergencies, last minute or just everyday expenses that can make saving hard, but JB CHS financial advisors assures people that it's as easy as one, two, three.

"Determine how much you would like to spend for the holidays, divide it by 12, and save that much every month," said Mrs. Lang. For example, if you plan on spending $600, you will need to save $50 every month to accomplish that. If you don't have time to save, think about getting a part time job for the holidays and use the extra cash for holiday gifts."

Not having enough money this holiday season might have you reaching for a credit card, which may end up leaving you in debt or buried up to your nose in bills long after the holiday season's winter ice has melted away. JB CHS financial advisors say avoid using any type of plastic, unless you are exceptionally good at paying them off in a timely manner.

"Credit Card companies have 'Thanksgiving' twice-a-year because consumers charge billions on their credit cards. You should start the New Year feeling thankful instead of stressed. The key to this is to stay within your limits and plan ahead," said Mrs. Brown. "Shopping with a wallet full of credit cards will make you much more likely to spend than if you limit yourself to one piece of plastic or cash."

While those high-end valued gifts may catch your eye, whether it is for giving or receiving, some of the best gift-giving ideas come right from home. Making your own gifts can be an easy money saver for most of us this year. Giving a gift such as baked goods, homemade cross-stitch, knitted blankets or sweaters, or wood-work projects may be more appreciated than something you could buy.

The holidays are a time where money-saving tips are very much appreciated, the following are some tips to help make the most out of your time and money this holiday season:

· Forego gift-giving, instead plan a family party focusing around great food, storytelling, socializing and having fun. Plan games or activities if you'd like a more structured atmosphere.

· Set a gift spending limit of $10 or less, or decide to do favors or give services to each other rather than purchasing items. Gift ideas might include car washes, babysitting, housecleaning, home repairs, hair cuts or coloring, lawn mowing, etc.

· Involve your children in making gifts. Your wallet will thank you and you'll be teaching children a valuable lesson in giving to others.

· Give the gift of health. As a family, purchase a gym membership or take on another health-inducing effort as a group.

· Spend more time thinking, and less time buying. A bit cliché, but the truth is the best gifts are the ones that are unique and well-considered. Don't be quick to rush out to the store just so that you can say you've bought someone a gift. If you think long and hard about the recipient, you'll more often than not find a gift that is perfect and inexpensive.

· Not all presents come wrapped in pretty paper and decorative bows. And as you know, the saying goes, "the best things in life are free." As the holidays approach, it's important to give back to your community, especially in these economic hard times. Not everyone can donate money to different charities, but everyone can donate some extra time helping others. Not only will you be giving back to your community and helping those in need, but you will also be rewarding yourself with knowing that you made a difference in someone's life.

For more information, or to receive budget advice, contact the Military and Family Member Readiness Center to schedule an appointment at 963-4406 or 764-7480.