Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011
Thrifty gifting: Financial planning expert offers tips on holiday budgeting, limiting stress
MANHATTAN -- Nearly 14 million Americans are still paying for gifts purchased during the last holiday season.
While the holiday season presents countless opportunities to overspend and create excess stress, remaining budget conscientious and stress-free over the holidays can be easy, according to a Kansas State University financial planning expert.
It all begins with a plan.
"Have a budget ahead of time as to how much you can afford," said Jodi Kaus, director of Powercat Financial Counseling, a free financial counseling and education program for students at the university. "Make a list before you go into the store so you know exactly where you are going to shop and what you are going to buy instead of meandering. Be conscientious of all of those savvy things retail stores have you do to get you to buy things that weren't in your budget or plan."
To ensure a comfortable amount of money is available for holiday gift purchases, Kaus advises setting aside money ahead of time, separate from savings. Using reward points, shopping online and staggering purchases can also make a difference.
Kaus said other ways to reduce costs during the holiday season include:
* Creating a detailed shopping list;
* Creating a budget;
* Setting a price limit for each gift;
* Shopping alone;
* Participating in gift exchanges;
* Giving the gift of time;
* Considering layaway; and
* Being creative.
Additional cost-saving ideas include sending e-cards and newsletters as opposed to traditional holiday cards, hosting a potluck as a holiday dinner and celebrating out of season.
Travel is an important consideration for many people during the holiday season, and there are ways of minimizing costs, Kaus said. Reserving all travel accommodations early and together often results in lower costs. Flexibility and booking off-season are also beneficial considerations.
Kaus also recommends advantage travel miles for customers who frequent the same airline.
"A lot of people don't even sign up for those programs," she said. "You might be able to use some of those at the times you really need to travel some distance."
With trips, event planning and large expenditures, stress is easily amassed during the holiday season. To avoid the holiday blues, Kaus says moderation is key. Taking personal time daily, modifying traditions, regular exercise and eating properly are among the most important ways of limiting stress. Managing meal sizes can play a significant role in limiting stress and not hindering holiday celebrations.
"You still need to have fun, celebrate and enjoy grandma's pie," Kaus said. "But if you overindulge on everything, then later on you'll have a lot of guilt and some possible stress issues with overindulging. Going in with a plan is important."
For more holiday shopping strategies and a holiday budget worksheet, visit Powercat Financial Counseling's website at http://www.k-state.edu/pfc.