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Do you remember the gift you received for Christmas last year? Planning ahead is the key to staying ahead this season.
As consumers prepare for the holiday season, Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, Inc. (“Springboard”) is encouraging individuals and families to be mindful of the financial goals they established at the beginning of the year. Failing to plan can lead to impulse shopping and overspending, especially during the gift-giving season. Considering that most adults do not recall the gifts they gave or received last year calls for some planning ahead this holiday season. In preplanning, consumers can avoid the pressure to make unnecessary purchases, and the possibility of derailing the financial progress they have worked so hard to achieve. Melinda Opperman, Springboard’s senior vice president, encourages consumers to make their memories different this year by being creative and resisting the urge to make purchases that exceed their budget.
“We’re hoping that consumers will connect with relatives and friends over Thanksgiving as that’s the perfect time to pull names for a holiday gift-exchange or choose other new holiday gift giving traditions that won’t break the family budget,” says Opperman. “Consumers should ask themselves if they remember the gifts they received last year.”
There are many variations to a holiday gift exchange. From a theme-based activity such as the white elephant game where participants bring their wrapped “gift” to the party. This can involve everyone in the family, and numbers are chosen and a gift is selected and opened, and the gift can be ‘stolen’ up to three times! This leads to some good natured laughter and fun memories. Rather than exchanging gifts with co-workers, consumers may want to consider pooling their funds to donate a toy or meals to individuals and families who are less fortunate. Selecting a charity-given focus provides a way to make gift-giving memorable without taxing the family budget.
“Make it fun by selecting a theme that’s meaningful to your family members,” says Opperman. “This will save you time and money. Rather than purchasing multiple gifts, you will only have to buy a gift for the person’s name you pulled over Thanksgiving,” says Opperman.
Springboard also offers the following additional wallet-friendly tips for consumers this holiday season:
Make a Plan
Create a holiday budget and set spending limits. Knowing how much one can truly afford to spend is a crucial first step in controlling costs. Be sure to include all anticipated holiday expenses, including decorations, holiday cards, postage, and gift-wrap.
Make a List
After the budget has been established, make a list of gifts, decorations, and food items that need to be purchased. Sticking with an established budget will help prevent overspending. If it has been a challenging year financially, it is a good idea to shrink the holiday gift list.
Plan a Time to Shop
Running around on lunch hours and evenings after work or shopping with young children is exhausting and not very productive. Arrange for a day or half-day off to do shopping. Consider trading babysitting with a friend in order to have more shopping time.
Be an Efficient Shopper
If looking for a specific gift, “let your fingers do the walking” and call stores to find out if they have that special item.
Use malls. Whether it’s the local retail mall or an outlet mall, go where there is a large selection of stores to shop.
Read the newspapers and sales flyers for deals and specials. Use the newspaper to comparison shop.
Separate shopping trips (when comparing prices, quality, value, etc.) from spending trips (when making a purchase), and resist taking cash, credit cards, or a checkbook on the shopping trips.
Pay with cash and avoid using credit cards. Charge cards tend to encourage indiscriminate spending. Credit card users often say they had no idea how much they spent on the holidays until the credit card bills arrive in January or February.
Plan ahead – shop year-round and make a “gift drawer” or box with pre-holiday presents inside. Don’t forget to make a list and keep track of gifts as they are purchased throughout the year. Be sure to keep all gift receipts in an envelope where they can be easily retrieved at gift-giving time.
Liquidators, buying clubs, and factory outlet stores usually offer lower prices. Bulk buying with other family members or friends can also yield savings. Shop during off-peak times such as early morning or mid-week to avoid crowds and pressure.
Do it online. Online auctions such as eBay are great places to find bargains, but be aware of how much similar items cost at retail. Many retailers have clearance sections on their shopping sites that offer big savings.
Make gifts at home. Handmade craft items, special desserts or breads and other “goodies” can help stretch a holiday budget.
Throughout the nation, Springboard offers assistance with money and credit management through educational programs and confidential credit and debt counseling. Springboard offers various financial literacy workshops, including Surviving the Holidays, where consumers learn how to prepare for costs associated with the holidays, manage holiday spending and begin the New Year without holiday debt. In addition to free educational seminars, Springboard offers interactive financial tools, online courses, and helpful resources that may be downloaded from its Financial Instructional Training (FIT) Academy.
About Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management
SPRINGBOARD® Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit personal financial education and counseling organization founded in 1974. Springboard is a HUD-approved housing counseling agency and a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a national organization of nonprofit credit counseling agencies, and a member of the Association of Independent Credit Counseling Agencies. The agency offers personal financial education and assistance with credit counseling, housing counseling, debt and money management through educational programs and confidential counseling. Springboard is accredited by the Council on Accreditation, signifying the highest standards for agency governance, fiscal integrity, counselor certification and service delivery policies. The agency provides pre-bankruptcy counseling and debtor education as mandated by the bankruptcy reform law. The agency offers nationwide phone counseling services and has locations in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Florida and Maryland for in-person counseling sessions. Not all types of counseling are available in-person at all locations, please call for details. For more information on Springboard, call 800-449-9818 or visit their web site at http://www.Springboard.org.