Update: We got winners for Jean Chatzky 'loot'
Update: Kimberely and Barbara, thanks for our money-saving tips! Please email your mailing
addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you each a gift package from Jean Chatkzy. Look for a new contest next week.
Visions of sugarplums giving you visions of negative bank account balances and high credit card bills this season? You’re not alone. This year, unemployment is at a ten year high, worse than projected. Florida was even hit harder at 11.2% and according to Jean Chatzky regular contributor to the Today Show and Money 911, almost 13 million Americans still haven’t paid off last year’s gifts. Luckily, she has some holiday spending tips to help keep your stockings and your wallet stuffed.
First off, you have to establish your goal. Chatzky provides a calculator tool on her site for holiday spending help, but she says it should not be over 1.5% of your annual take-home pay.
Make a list and check it twice. Make a list of the people you’re buying for, and how much you want to spend on each person. Check catalogs and online for pricing to see if you can realistically accomplish those goals. Jean says it’s okay to “borrow” from one person’s budget to fulfill another, as long as it fits into the entire holiday amount.
When determining that budget, don’t forget to account for all of the trimmings like decorations, wrapping paper, greeting cards and entertaining costs. And once you have it established? Cut it again.
Black Friday is gearing up early this year. While luxury retailers have cut back their inventories, discount retailers are deeply discounting certain items hoping to draw shoppers into their stores. You can study those circulars ahead of time to see if the deals make sense for you.
Re-gift your gift cards.It’s okay to use those gift cards laying around to shop for others. Often even after you’ve used them for something for yourself, there is a small balance remaining that can be used to supplement your shopping expenses.
Go Old School. Go back to those old tricks we played as kids. Jean remembers many baked gifts coming from her childhood kitchen, as well as other homemade gifts and inexpensive “grab bags” that she shared with her family.
Consider donating to a meaningful charity on behalf of a loved one. Most organizations send a note of acknowledgment that a donation was made in their name, but not the amount.
She suggests that if your family is going through a difficult time right now, it’s important to talk to your kids honestly about the situation and what they can expect this holiday season. Chances are they already know things are different, but you can relieve some of their stress by letting them know that while things are a little leaner this year, it’s because it’s important to your family’s security to re-prioritize things right now.
With the dialogue open, ask them if there is one item they would really like, and perhaps focus your resources on that instead of many smaller items that can add up.
What are some of your holiday expense cutting tips? We’d like to hear from you. From the comments left below, we will randomly draw a reader’s name on Dec. 1 to receive a gift bag from Jean Chatzky which includes a copy of her book, “Pay it Down!,” a free trial to her Debt Diet Online, and a set of organizers from Franklin-Covey to help you stay on track. (Check back here on the second to see if you’ve won to provide us with your mailing info--no need to post your email address on the site.)
With some planning and forethought, your Christmas can still be green and not in the red.
--Tracey Henry, the Suburban Diva