Money Matters: Build memories, not debt

  • Published
  • By Anthony Pope
  • Robins Airman and Family Readiness Center

The Holiday season is a wonderful time of celebration, time with family, and time of giving. 

Please enjoy this special time of year but be mindful the “giving” part can be done in countless ways. Many Americans find they have overspent and they spend several months of the new year trying to recuperate from the pile of debt. Remember it’s the season to reach out to others, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes a phone call, a card, or a batch of cookies will bring a smile and warm a heart.  Here are some other tips for managing the holiday costs and reducing your stress levels next year.

First and foremost, you must control the debt and you begin by deciding how much you can truly afford to spend. Now, sticking to your budget, create a holiday spending plan that incorporates expected costs like gifts, travel, and supplies. For most families, gifts are usually the most expensive part of the holidays, so it’s critical to designate a specific dollar amount and then make a list of people that will need a gift.  Now go down your list and decide what will be spent on each person and perhaps a gift idea. Sticking to your list and the dedicated dollar amount will help you keep on track and stay within budget.  

Be creative in gift giving, sometimes your time and a little effort are all that’s needed. For example, doing a sibling’s chores for a month, lending a hand on a tough project, or making a photo album will mean just as much as a store-bought gift. Gifts don’t have to be expensive, just put a little extra thought in what the individual does or enjoys, then visit your local dollar store. They have tons of simple items you can buy individually or easily make into a gift basket.  Dollar stores are also good places to buy some of your supplies such as wrapping paper and bows. If gifts are special or expensive, be sure to compare prices online and at stores. Use price comparison apps and coupons if possible!  

On the payment side, use cash and use big bills!  People will spend 30 percent less when they use cash instead of credit cards and they will avoid paying the interest if they have a revolving balance. If credit cards are used, avoid using multiple cards and use the one with the most favorable terms, such as lowest interest or cash back.  When using cards, keep a running total and mark off each person on your list as items are bought.  After the shopping is over, have a plan to completely pay off all debts, and, just as important, start a savings plan for Christmas next year!    

Remember the season and true reason we celebrate. It’s not the item we give, it’s the act of sharing kindness and compassion with others.  It’s a time to make good memories and perhaps start traditions. One family provides each teenage child with an envelope and an amount of money.  The instructions are simple, find someone that needs it. Another family does a treasure hunt each year where they find hidden instructions that run them all over the house and finally to a nice gift.  Make up your own family tradition and start building those wonderful memories!         

Please celebrate and enjoy Christmas.  Build memories, not debt.