Weight Watchers once commissioned a study that showed that while 58% of women think about sex at least 10x a day, some 70% have far more regular fantasies about food. The crime here is not how often we think about Christmas sex or food, but we spend very little time fantasizing over our finances!!
If you are like most of us, thinking about your finances doesn’t occur nearly as often 10x/day…..I mean what is sexy about setting up auto-pay from your checking account or calculating compound interest in an IRA? It’s not….. but there are some necessities in putting some cerebral power against the business side of our lives.
One of the financial drains of our lives that we tend to ignore and not think about (especially 10 times a day) is our spending during the holidays. Christmas will be here before we can even say “charge it!”. For the holidays, there is so much to plan for – there’s the decor, the food, the linens for the guests, the wine list, the primping ……a lot of effort goes into making the holidays memorable. We press upon on our shopping lists, gleefully parading into the malls and online, marching down the grocery aisles looking for that one ingredient that will pull the holiday meal together all the while ignoring the specifics of our budgets during this time. Sometimes that one gift for that extra special person, or even a few more mouths at the table stretches us far beyond our limits, however, we somehow justify it in our minds that we can pay it off…….eventually.
It is imperative that we keep our limits intact, our holiday wish list in reach, and keep some control over our budget. As Weight Watchers found out, we know we think about food and sex because, well, we can afford to, BUT we cannot afford to not think about our money and our limits. A recent statistic showed that almost 43% of American families spend more than they earn. This is a startling statistic so it is imperative we control our spending during the Christmas season.
Here are some tips on how:
1. Set spending limits – We are all fully aware of our disposable income limits and what is feasible to spend on our credit cards. Although it is tempting to stretch ourselves at the holidays, nothing is more depressing than that ‘January-of-next-year’ credit card statement that looks like a down payment on a new 10,000sq ft home.
2. Make a list – Writing all the people you want to gift is essential because it gives you some realistic view of how you are going to divvy up your resources to cover the people on your list.
3. Limit an amount per person – apply a certain amount to each person. Obviously, the tighter the relationship the more you will most likely allocate to that person. Note: we are not advocating buying your mother-in-law’s Christmas gift at the Big Mart so Santa can magically deliver something under the tree for you that is shiny and 24 carat. Wow, Santa, really? You shouldn’t have!
4. Choose your destination wisely – Where you shop is as important as what you shop for – some items can go for sale as high as 50% off as holidays approach. Keep your list in your iPhone/Droid so when you spot a sale during the summer, you can snatch it up and save it for later.
As Christmas approaches, take time to fine-tune your guest list, gift list and evaluate a realistic budget for the last months of the year. Once you have done this, you will have more time to think about whatever you want to think about……ten times a day!!
Cathy DeWitt Dunn, President of DeWitt & Dunn, LLC, is the driving force behind Women Money & Power. With decades of experience in the financial services industry, Cathy specializes in helping individuals and families strengthen their retirement outlook with lifetime income solutions not available from traditional brokerage houses. She has helped countless investors start their personal journeys towards a stronger retirement with strategies designed to protect principal, generate retirement income that can’t be outlived, and eliminate market loss.