Late Thanksgiving recently joined Black Friday and Cyber Monday as part of the madness of early holiday shopping. With the dawn of November, the holiday advertisement is already appearing online, on television and in print.
Before embarking on the commercials of the season, take the time to remember the true meaning of the holidays. They are a time for rest, reflection and joy.
The author of “Personal Finance”, Mary Hunt, offers an excellent balance between meaning and goods in her book “Proof of the Debt of Your Christmas”, developed from her own story of taking on debt for holiday shopping more than 20 years ago.
Hunt admits that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for celebrating the holidays, as it shows readers how to make Christmas with all their money and avoid the bills that will soon follow in January. Gift giving, holiday entertainment and dressing up the house are among the many topics it covers.
It is mandatory to prepare and plan for the holidays to avoid the accumulation of seasonal debt. The best divider to prevent emotional overload during the holidays is time. “Until you are emotionally involved, this is the time when you can think most sensibly.”
Notable thoughts for Hunt’s holiday include:
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Behavior. “The way you celebrate and how you pay for the Christmas holidays is entirely in your control if you make that choice,” Hunt said.
Courage. You may be an unmarried, childless couple or financially disadvantaged and part of a large family that is expected to buy gifts for each relative. The solution is to develop the courage to give as you wish, not out of guilt or anticipation. Spend what you can on what you want, not what others say you need. Be creative with gift giving.
Money in envelopes. Set an amount to spend on each gift recipient and put that amount in an envelope. When the money disappears, it goes away, as does buying gifts for that person.
Use money and you will be a more disciplined buyer, forced to find the best bargains.
Gift cards. The increase in gift cards in recent years has led Hunt to emphasize that they are not the same as cash, but instead are specific loans to stores subject to the rules and policies of that store. Hunt’s gift card tips include:
- Give a gift card when it tops the recipient’s wish list, not for your convenience.
- Realize that many gift cards begin to lose value as soon as six months after activation.
- Avoid giving gift cards to children because they are too abstract. Give money instead.
Outlet shops. Retail outlets have become their own kind of shopping experience that requires sensible shopping. Hunt’s shopping tips include:
- Wait for the big sales. Outlets follow the same schedule as regular stores, with the best deals around the big holidays.
- Ask the trading partners if the product is first quality, brand or lower quality, made especially for the store.
- Ask about off-season goods located in the back of the store, affordable prices at the bottom.
Family traditions. Tradition assures families that even in uncertain times, in a changing world, there are some things they can count on to stay the same.
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One of the suggested traditions is to collect twenty-four books that match your family’s values and beliefs for the holidays. Wrap the books and from December 1, let your children choose and open a book before bed and then read it together.
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Hunt surveys readers about their favorite holiday books (Christmas and Hanukkah) and lists the most popular twenty-four titles.
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Readers of Hunt’s website share their inspiring stories about how they personalized their holidays.
A family launched a box of memories, encouraging members to share thoughts about the past year and hopes for the future during the holidays. Each Christmas Eve relative opens the box and reflects on their previous recordings.
Proof of Debt Your Christmas has a treasure trove of holiday-enhancing websites, including an organization that distributes gifts to children in desperate situations around the world, and a no-frills website that allows you to bid on unwanted items at stolen police station rooms.
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Hunt advises giving tips and charitable contributions. “The most reputable charities spend no more on administrative expenses of twenty-five cents on every dollar donated.”
If you’re inspired by the affirmations, Hunt offers nine to help you avoid holiday debt, including “I’ll be watching on December 26 when I intend to wake up knowing that Christmas is fully paid.”
Proof of debt Your Christmas will reign as a year-round reference to achieve a meaningful, debt-free holiday season. Discover Hunt’s tips now to start your ability to experience Christmas with all the money this year.
To organize your Christmas and simplify your holidays, visit Organized Christmas.