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Get In The Spirit Without Breaking The Bank: Staying on track for the holidays! - Thursday, November 01, 2012

Fall is here and it’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner!  Family gatherings and holiday festivities will be your main focus, by planning ahead now you can keep holiday spending in check without wiping out your hard-earned financial gains made this past year.

Money already stretched tightly? Make a plan!
If your money is already stretched thin, then decide what you can afford and make your holiday spending fit your needs.  Review your budget and repurpose any money committed to "extras” (like eating out, entertainment, clothes and personal items) for Christmas gifts, holiday travel and food.  

Put your most important goals first:
Imagine what you want the holidays to look like, then make a list of the supplies you’ll need to accomplish that goal.  Do you want a real Christmas tree?  Lots of presents?  A big family meal with turkey and all the "fixings”?  Will there be long distance travel?  Start your financial planning by putting the most important items at the top and write the amount you plan to spend next to each one; once your budget has been allocated, stay focused on your top choices and let the other items fade into the background.

Work smarter, not harder:
Think of creative ways you can make your holidays special, talk to your friends and coworkers about some of the ways they keep the holiday spirit without the price tag.  Many families assign a side dish and dessert to each adult member to help alleviate the burden and cost of one person cooking everything.

Create new traditions:
Many families have abandoned the expensive practice of giving a gift to all family members and substituted an entertaining gift exchange, with the most common ones being variations of "The White Elephant” gift game for adults and a limited gift exchange for children where they draw names for each other.  Both practices maintain the custom of gift-giving without overspending.

Focus on what is important:
Have each member of your family write down the 3 things they think are most important during the holiday season.  Have each person share their choices with the group and why they chose those things as most important; children may surprise you with their answers.  The most important things don’t necessarily cost money.

How Neighbors can help: 
Follow us on Twitter (@NeighborsFCU) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/NeighborsFCU) for updates on financial literacy topics and other credit union activities.

Did you Know?
A 2010 survey of adults found that only 43% kept close track of spending; however, 56% do not have a budget, and more than 11 million people do not monitor their overall spending and do not know how much they spend on food, housing and entertainment.