Happy Holiday Spending

It’s that time of year. The time when your bank account thins as the piles of gifts that need wrapping grows. But is it too late to make a budget for this holiday season and save yourself from a financial crunch?

Erin Whittle of Whittle Consulting LLC thinks it’s never too late to make a holiday budget. You can find the CPA, CGMA and MBA holder, who is a strategic consultant for non- and for-profit organizations, online at whittleconsulting. com. “Always start with a list,” she said. “Your list needs three parts: who and what and how much.”

Keep your list… and check it twice (or more)

Whittle recommends carrying the list with you throughout the holiday season so that you’re never caught off guard. Panicked shopping leads to overspending. “It seems small, but every dollar over budget adds up,” she said.

Another list component is to prioritize your spending, not only by who you need to buy for, but by putting big-ticket items at the top of your ‘watch’ list, so you can snatch them up when the price is best.

Merry Price Matching

“Don’t be afraid to ask stores to price match, or, especially if it’s a store you have a relationship with, to ask them for discounts. Unadvertised discounts are often for the offering if a savvy customer just asks,” Whittle said. “Many stores will also match the price of items you found online for less; just print out the webpage or bring your smartphone along to show them the bargain you found.”

Paper, Not Plastic

Another old trick that works is to bring paper instead of plastic; bring only the cash you need for spending and leave your credit and debit cards at home.

Now that you’ve got 2015 spending under control, maintain that list for 2016. Update it as 2016 moves along and keep it handy when you’re shopping, so you can buy when you’ve got the extra cash or the price is best.

Santa Saving Accounts

For the person who is good at saving for gift buying, Christmas Club accounts, those are savings accounts into which you squirrel away small amounts each week or month, then withdraw the money when you’re ready to shop, are still out there. “But it’s just as easy for bank customers to open a regular savings account. Many banks and credit unions offer free savings accounts. That means no monthly fees, so long as the customer makes an automatic transfer each month from their checking account. Check with your bank for details,” Whittle said.

Charitable Cheer

But gifts aren’t the only things we spend on when the winter months come around. Many of us give to charitable organizations, too.

“Put those on your gift list as well, since they are part of your holiday budget,” Whittle said. “And if you’re looking for the best tax break on your donations, be sure that the charity you choose is eligible as a tax deductible claim,” she said. You can check an organization’s eligibility at this IRS website: irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check. Remember, too, that donations you want to deduct from each year’s taxes need to be made before Dec. 31.

Happy spending! And don’t forget to slip your own name on that gift list, even if it’s just to reward yourself with a seasonal latte you can buy with the money you saved by shopping smart.

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