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Make a holiday budget and stick to it

By ALETHEA PRICE

Boyle County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

The holidays are quickly approaching. While holidays give people time to spend with loved ones, all the extra purchases for gifts, food and decorations can quickly escalate. If you have not been saving all year, you might be starting to feel the financial pinch that can come with the season.

Developing a budget can help start your financial preparation for the holidays. Budgets give you a great idea of the amount of money you will need to get through the holidays and will help you avoid impulse buying. It is important for you to include all holiday purchases when developing a budget. Think of all the events, travel, charitable donations and gifts that you have planned for the season. Remember to list food and other entertaining costs if you plan on hosting holiday celebrations. Be sure to list each person you plan to give a gift to and the amount you plan to spend on them — no matter how small.

Once you have established a budget, review it. If you are not comfortable with the amount of money the season’s festivities are going to cost, a budget can help you find areas where you can make cuts. For example, maybe you can make decorations instead of buying them or use your own utensils, plates and glasses instead of purchasing paper or plastic. You may also have some people on your gift list that might enjoy a non-monetary gift (like assistance completing a project or just your time). If you still need to tighten your belt further, prioritize your purchases. Your family may rather have a big meal together than lots of presents.

Remember your budget as you head to the stores. Consider keeping a copy of the budget in your wallet to keep you on track and to avoid impulse purchases. Try to use cash or your debit card whenever possible to avoid paying interest on credit card purchases well after the season has ended.

Here are a few more tips on how to save money and manage your holiday spending:

• Make a list and stick to it. When you go to the store for gifts and groceries alike, have a list and don’t stray from it. If you come across something cheaper than what you wanted to buy, that’s great! Don’t get distracted by all the sale items that can magically end up in your cart. They can add up quickly.

• Split your list into necessary items (needs) and extra opportunities (wants). Prioritizing your list can help you make cuts and keep costs down. Think of needs such as gas for extra travel, food for events, and babysitting fees.

• Watch store ads and sale ads for the best deals. Shopping around can help you save money on food and fun. Get the most out of your money by doing your research.

• Save money on gifts by making them yourself or offering a handwritten sentiment. Handwritten thank-you notes are a great way to show appreciation for non-family members such as the mail carrier, your hairstylist, or babysitter.

On Monday, Nov. 26 at 6 p.m., at the Boyle County Public Library, I’ll be teaching the class “Adult How To: Make Homemade Gifts.” This free program will give you lots of great ideas for homemade gift options. No registration required.

For more information on developing a budget, call the Boyle County Extension office at (859) 236-4484.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at a.price@uky.edu.