I’m sure many of us have woken up New Year’s Day with dry mouth and a nasty headache…and that might be your plan for this year…but that’s not the hangover I’m referring to. I’m talking about a hangover that lasts a LOT longer than a few hours and can negatively affect you for the rest of the New Year!
I’m talking about the ‘debt hangover’ that some of you have found yourself in after the holiday season due to a little too much cheer, going crazy with gifts, deciding to splurge and head off on that beach getaway without any planning…
So what can we do to start 2016 off on the right Financial foot…instead of with a pile of bills to pay off?
Here’s my Top 6 Money Tips for the Holidays:
1 Know where you stand. The best way to avoid a Money Hangover is to know your situation, and what’s coming up, so you can make smart choices. How much do you currently have in Savings? Are you going to want to contribute to your RSP in the first quarter to bring down 2015 taxes? Do you have any known expenses coming up in January? If you know how much money you have to work with, you can decide what amount to spend over the holiday and then stick to that!
2 Figure out your taxes and HST…if you are a small business owner. If you act now as if all the money you have in the Bank is spendable, you could be setting yourself up for a very Un-Merry end to the 1st quarter. Time to get a handle on what you will owe…so you can have a Ho Ho Ho Happy Holiday Season and STILL make your tax and HST payments on time with no penalties!
3 Do you attend a lot of parties over the holidays where gifts are expected for everyone? This adds up VERY quickly…and the reality is, you spend all this time and money getting presents for all the family and work colleagues and most of it is unwanted. Suggest ‘Secret Santa’ exchanges instead where you buy one nice gift and do one of these fun trading games. In my experience, it’s way more about having fun with the group than getting presents anyway…so save your hard-earned dollars and focus on having a positive, fun experience with the gang everyone will be talking about a week later (when they don’t even remember what their gift was).
4 Gifts for the kids. This is a touchy subject and again, I’m just speaking from my experience. Kids and teens typically forget about whatever is hot right now and move on to the next popular ‘thing’ quickly…so spending a ton of dough is not advisable. Yes, kids should have a good holiday and getting gifts can make that happen. But you don’t have to be the coolest parent (or aunt or uncle or grandparent…) and shower them with multiple lavish, expensive gifts. Half of them wind up in a closet never to be looked at again! Set a budget. Get teens gift cards and offer to go shopping with them during Boxing Week (where the dollar goes much further). And instead of clothes and toys, give what I’m going to describe in #5….
5 Give Experiences. The greatest ‘gift’ you can give anyone is your time and attention…and this especially applies with kids and family. Instead of succumbing to all that material nonsense the stores make you think you need to get for those you love, why not give them an experience they can cherish. Nowadays, there are all sorts of super cool Experience Groupons you can get. Some of the things I have done (at a significant discount off the regular price) over the last couple of years have included: A Haunted Walk tour of downtown; being Falconer of the Day and getting to hold and interact with multiple birds of prey; shooting guns at a gun range; seeing the Lions, Tigers and Leopards get fed at a Big Cat zoo; going on a snowshoe adventure (if we ever get any snow…) and many more! So why not give those you care about an adventure gift with you this holiday season?! I promise it will be more memorable for you and them…and easier on the pocketbook (and BTW, you can give adventures that don’t cost a dime other than the gas to get there like a hike in the woods or spending the afternoon together – or just the admission price for the Science Centre, Museum or Hockey Hall of Fame. All great experiences).
6 Plan your vacations. I know…doesn’t sound all that spontaneous however you won’t be particularly spontaneous the rest of the year if you rack up $5000 on your credit card rushing off on a trip and spend the next 12 months paying it off! There’s a reason why airlines and hotels drive up their prices at this time of year…they know that everyone gets it in their heads that they HAVE to go away, take advantage of the time off and give in to that itch to get away somewhere warm over the holidays. And you can be smart about it…Okay, if your family or group of friends can only travel at this time you may not have much choice…but if you do, why not take advantage of it. I’ve travelled during the mid or low seasons and you get SO much more trip for your dollar (or just save those dollars). Four and five star hotels for half price; cheaper flights (or less points to travel); extras thrown in on top or upgrades included…all because the travel industry knows when times are tough for them and they have to provide incentives to get people to travel. If you absolutely NEED to get away over the holidays, plan a shorter trip somewhere close by (lots of great hotel weekend packages, wine tours, kid-friendly vacations on special right now) for the holidays and then plan that overseas trip for a little later in the year when prices are lower. And here’s the thing…getting excited about and anticipating a vacation coming up can be just the thing to get you through those cold Winter days and nights…so waiting can actually be a good thing.
Those are my Holiday tips…to get you into the New Year with money in your Bank account and starting off 2016 on the right Financial foot!
Happy and safe holidays to everyone!