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Start Your Holiday Planning Early

Contributed by: Heath Combs


 
While some people – mostly kids – are more than happy to start making their Christmas wish lists in October, it’s not too early for parents to start planning for the holidays.
 
The holidays are fun, exciting and joyous, but they can also be expensive – especially if you don’t have a plan. According to the Gallup research organization, the average family spent $830 on Christmas in 2015.
 
Here are some tips so your family can keep holiday spending under control:
 
Make a budget
 
Make a maximum budget for how much you are willing to spend during the holidays before you buy anything. Unfortunately, many families create their lists first and then try to figure out a budget. This strategy almost guarantees an unhappy January when the credit card bills arrive in the mail.
 
Instead, if you have a spending budget in advance, then you can figure out how much you are willing to spend on each person. And if your calculations exceed your budget, you can begin paring down your shopping list to make sure you don’t break the bank.
 
Pay cash
 
Credit card bills that are loaded with surprises in January can certainly sour holiday memories – and put a strain on your monthly budget. One solution is to put the cards in a drawer and only pay with cash (or debit cards) for presents during the holidays. A number of studies have shown that it’s more difficult to spend from a checking or savings account than it is to use a credit card. Often, people are more conservative when they spend using this tactic. Many financial experts say that you can save 10-to-20 percent by using cash or debit cards instead of credit cards. Based on the average holiday spend above, you could save $80 to $160 on holiday items.
 
Save for the holidays throughout the year
 
Avoid the sudden budget crunch. Try to put a little money away every pay period and watch it build as the holidays get closer. For example, if your family spends about $830 on Christmas, you could save that amount in a Truliant Christmas Club account if you transfer $70 a month. If you can save the money in advance, it will certainly make the holidays more enjoyable.
 
Plan travel around peak times
 
About five million people – or six percent of travelers – will fly to their holiday destination in 2017. This year, Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on a Monday, which makes for a nice three-day weekend, but to avoid crowds and to get better ticket prices, look at flying on Tuesday or Wednesday prior to Christmas and flying home on Wednesday or Thursday after Christmas. This can make your travel more enjoyable and potentially save you money. For more information on getting cheap airfares during the holidays or throughout the year, take a look at www.cheapair.com.
 
Take a payment break
 
Another way to access a little extra money is to find out if your financial institution offers programs that allow you to skip a payment on items such as loans, mortgages, etc. Truliant’s Skip-A-Pay1 program is a small reward for our members who have made all their loan payments for the past 12 months on auto, recreational vehicle or boat loans. Skipping one payment on one of these loans around the holidays may be the perfect solution for making your holiday season extra special.
 
Remember the reason
 
Finally, it’s important to remember what the holidays are celebrating. If you keep the season’s spiritual meaning – whether it’s Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah – in mind, you’ll probably enjoy the festivities a great deal more. And by taking a few steps early, you’ll be able to focus on what’s important – more time with family and friends. 
 
To learn more about developing a smart savings strategy with Truliant Federal Credit Union, please visit one of our six convenient Forsyth County branches. Apply for loans by phone at 855-293-2957, or visit Truliant.org/locations to set an appointment.
 
Federally insured by NCUA. (1) Rates and terms subject to change. Subject to credit union approval and a $25 processing fee. Allows one skipped payment per loan per calendar year on qualifying loans.

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