Late Thanksgiving Day recently joined Black Friday and Cyber Monday as part of the holiday early-buying craze. As November dawns, holiday ads are already popping up online, on television, and in print.
Before you get involved in the business activity of the season, take time to remember the true meaning of the holidays. It represents a time of rest, meditation, and joy.
Personal finance author Mary Hunt offers an excellent balance of meaning and merchandise in her book “Debt Proof for Your Birthday,” which evolved from her own story of incurring holiday shopping debt more than 20 years ago.
Admitting there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to celebrating the holidays, Hunt shows readers how to get an all-cash Christmas and avoid the bills that soon follow in January. Gift giving, holiday entertainment, and home decorating are among the many topics she covers.
It is essential that you prepare and plan for the holidays to avoid seasonal debt buildup. The best parting factor to deter emotional indulgences over the holidays is time. “Even though you are not emotionally involved, this is when you can think more rationally.”
Noteworthy Hunt ideas for celebrating the holiday include:
behavior. “How you celebrate and how you pay for the Christmas holidays is completely in your control if you make this choice,” says Hunt.
courage. You may be single, a couple without children, financially challenged, and part of a large family, and you are expected to buy gifts for each relative. The solution is to develop the courage to offer what you want, not out of guilt or expectation. Spend what you can on what you want, not what other people say. Get creative with gift giving.
cash in envelopes. Decide on an amount you’ll spend on each gift recipient, and put that cash in an envelope. When the money goes it goes and so does buying gifts for that person.
Use cash and you’ll be a more disciplined shopper, bound to find the best deals.
gift cards. The increase in gift card offerings in recent years has prompted Hunt to stress that they are not the same as cash, but instead, a particular store’s credit subject to that store’s rules and policies. Gift card giving tips from Hunt include:
- Give a gift card when it’s top of the recipient’s wish list, not out of your convenience.
- Be aware that many gift cards begin to lose value as soon as six months after activation.
- Avoid giving gift cards to children, as they are too abstract. Give cash instead.
outlet stores. The outlets have turned into their own kind of business experience, requiring smart shopping. Tips for shopping at the Hunt’s Outlet include:
- Wait for the big sales. The outlets follow the same schedule as regular stores, with the best deals around major holidays.
- Ask sales associates if the merchandise is first quality, name brand, or low quality made specifically for the outlet.
- Inquire about out-of-season merchandise in the back of the store available at rock-bottom prices.
family traditions. Traditions give families the assurance that even in turbulent times, in the midst of a changing world, there are some things they can count on to stay the same.
One suggested tradition is to collect twenty-four books that align with your family’s values and beliefs around the holidays. Roll the books, and from December 1, let your children choose a book, open it before bed, and then read it together.
Hunt polled readers for their favorite holiday books (Christmas and Hanukkah) and listed the twenty-four most popular titles.
Hunt website readers share their inspiring stories of how they can customize their holiday celebrations.
One family has started a remembrance box, encouraging members to contribute thoughts about the past year, and hopes for the future during the holidays. On Christmas Eve each of the relatives opens the box and reflects on their previous entries.
Debt-Proof Your Christmas features a treasure chest of holiday-boosting websites, including an organization that distributes gifts to children in desperate situations around the world, and a no-frills site that allows you to bid on unclaimed items in police stations’ stolen property rooms.
Hunt advises on tips and charitable contributions. “The most well-known charities do not spend on administrative costs more than twenty-five cents of every dollar donated.”
If affirmations inspire you, Hunt offers nine quotes to help you avoid holiday debt, including, “I’ll watch on December 26th, when I intend to wake up knowing Christmas has been paid in full.”
Debt Proof will rule your Christmas as your year-round reference for achieving a meaningful and debt-free holiday season. Discover Hunt Tips now to boost your ability to experience Christmas with all your cash this year.
To organize your Christmas and simplify your holidays, visit Organized Christmas.