Debt Free Christmas Celebrations
9 Practical Tips to Stay Debt Free This Christmas
Christmas After Credit Cards
- By Cheryl Johnson
A crucial time of year is approaching for families trying to reduce debt. The holidays are always difficult to get through without increasing debt. I've found this to be especially true with my own family. Reflecting on previous years it's hard to say where my troubles began.
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When I was a single parent I had the blessings of a great family infrastructure and a "secret Santa"; Both showered my children excessively with gifts at Christmas time. I call them blessings. However, had I a crystal ball at the time I would have definitely approached the subject of Christmas much differently. More frugally on the commercial side and more aggressively on the spiritual or celebration side.
It is especially important during the holiday season to keep focused on financial goals. It's so easy to get distracted from goals with the excitement and anticipation of children mounting each day the holiday grows closer.
I found it so easy in the past to switch priorities with the flip of a credit card! My children's happiness and their expectations easily rose above the need to be debt free each and every passing year. And so here I am today, still paying for Christmas's past and planning how I will approach a debt free Christmas.
For years I had been telling the kids "This year Christmas will be lean. We just don't have as much money to spend this year." I had already discussed with the kids the changes in our financial situation. I explained in every detail how we got in debt, how important it was for our future to get out of debt, and how I had planned to accomplish eliminating the debt. Needless to say it was a rude awakening for them.
But, even though I had made the speech, my actions did not confirm commitments at Christmas time. Each and every year I would over ride my sensibilities and splurge, always finding new credit or increased credit limits to subsidize the holiday.
I knew this was a huge mistake. How could they take me seriously with such a blatant display of extravagance? But, I continued to do it anyway. Just a perfect example of how we let our emotions control our actions.
But then came the year after. The year after I had maxed out every card and could no longer get additional or new credit extended. The year that I had no choice but to live up to my commitment. I must say it was rough. But I do believe in hind sight that it was harder for me than it was for the kids. So what's a parent to do? Be honest! It's always the best policy.
Of course, since my children were no longer under the influence of the "Santa" legend, my job was made easier. I sat down with them again but this time I showed them the money so to speak. Or rather, the lack of money. I explained each and every expense in the budget. I compared it to our income. I showed them, on paper, that we were living on the bare minimum.
Then, I explained about our debt and how Christmas's past had contributed greatly to the problem. I stressed that this was money I spent, that I did not have, and that now was the time I had to pay back. I also explained that this would be the first year that I would not have those credit cards to turn to. I had no other option but to follow through with what I had been saying for years; This Christmas would in fact be very different.
If you still have young children and you choose to de-commercialize the holidays, I recommend implementing some celebration changes now. Focusing more on the actual celebration, or spirit, of Christmas and minimizing the importance of gifts. Certainly a few specially selected or created gifts are more appreciated than an abundance of senseless short lived gifts.
Teaching children how to choose or create gifts based on the recipients interests or needs is the best practice. I learned the importance of choosing just the right gifts because of necessity. I also realized how senseless it is to over give. It is the few truly cherished gifts that stay the course. Abundance is discarded almost immediately! I saw it with my own eyes year after year.
I know in an ever evolving technological society, the task of creative giving becomes more and more difficult. However, I also believe that the more technological our society becomes, the more we will miss, and long for, the simpler days of living. I'm already missing them and we've only just begun the technical revolution.
Much technology today is short lived and constantly updating. It's hard to keep up without going into debt if you live on a modest income.
Show your children a more meaningful Christmas now and, not only might you save yourself some money, you won't find yourself trying to explain a lean Christmas holiday. Put it in perspective before it gets out of hand and everyone is saved a lot of disappointment and reality shock!
Everyone deserves the right to live debt free. Being financially secure and independent is an option everyone can choose. Review the Three Simple Steps to Successful Debt Elimination.
If you use all the debt free living strategies together you will be successful in achieving a debt free life...
Budget your money to live within your means. Use a variety of money saving tips and strategies to save money everyday on everything you buy and do! Eliminate debt and learn to manage credit properly.
This article is authorized for reprint subject to the terms and conditions set forth at EzineArticles.com to include the Author's resource information.
The Real Magic of The Holiday Season
9 Practical Tips to Stay Debt Free This Year
By Steven B. Smith
There's something magical about this time of year when everything is trimmed with tinsel and various shades of red and green. But if you don't have a spending plan for the holidays, you'll likely end the year with too little green and deep in the red.
Here are nine smart tips to make sure the magic this year doesn't result in a disappearing act by your bank account.
- Create a spending plan now.
There's no better gift you can give your family than financial stability. Determine how much you can reasonably afford to spend this year, then determine how much to spend on each individual, not the other way around. Don't forget to include amounts for decorations, parties, and some of those unexpected expenses.
- Track your expenses to stick with your plan.
If you wait until you get your credit card bill in January to see how you did with your plan, you're almost sure to overspend. Track your expenses using an online spending management program like Mvelopes Personal, or a paper-based envelope system or spreadsheet, to keep an up-to-date view of your spending. Compare your actual spending to your plan often to make sure you stay within the limits you've set.
- Set a deadline for paying off all holiday expenses.
If you charge $800 this holiday season, and then make only the minimum payment on that debt, it would take almost 11 years to pay off and end up costing more than twice the original price (assuming a minimum payment of 2.5% or $10 and an annual interest rate of 18%). Mvelopes Personal (www.mvelopes.com) has a credit card feature designed to help set aside the money to cover purchases made with a credit card so you can pay the bill in full each month. You don't want to still be paying for the holidays next August.
- Trim the list along with the tree.In addition to trimming the tree this year, trim your gift list. Instead of sending knick-knacks to everyone you know, send a thoughtful note expressing your appreciation for their friendship. Spend the money you save instead to buy gifts for your closest friends and family or contribute it to your child's college savings fund.
- Send an e-card instead.
You'll save on postage and stationery, and many e-cards include animation and music and even interactive games, making them more fun than their paper counterparts. You can include a personalized message, and won't have to worry about it getting there on time. Try hallmark.com or 123greatings.com for fun, free e-cards.
- Get creative with your gifts.
The best gifts require more thought than money. Gather up some old photographs and frame them. Create a digital photo calendar. Give coupons for babysitting, a back massage, or a day free of changing diapers. Refinish that old rocking chair. Make a warm batch of your famous chocolate chip cookies, or record yourself reading a favorite story for a niece or nephew far away. People will appreciate the personal touch and thoughtfulness of the gift.
- Shop online.
You'll save time, gas money and possibly your sanity as you avoid the crowded parking lots and long lines. Many retailers offer free shipping for purchases over a certain dollar amount. Have the item shipped directly to the recipient to avoid an extra trip to the post office. Make sure you shop early to avoid paying expensive overnight shipping costs.
- Step back to clear your head.
It's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the busiest time of the year. Schedule some time to go ice-skating, see the lights, take a warm bath or enjoy a good book and a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire. Taking a step back can help you clear your head to avoid getting caught up in a frantic spending frenzy.
- Give to charity.
One of the most common complaints about this time of year is that consumerism has hijacked the season. The remedy? Give to those less fortunate. Giving to charity helps keep needs and wants in perspective during the holiday frenzy. Give gently used clothing and blankets to a local shelter or the Salvation Army, or donate some time wrapping and distributing gifts for Toys for Tots or another organization. It may help your children and you discover the real magic of the holiday season.
Steven B. Smith is president and CEO of In2M Corporation and author of Money for Life: Budgeting Success and Financial Fitness in Just 12 Weeks! www.mvelopes.com
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