Pro tips from a Chapel Hill CPA
We can get so focused on figuring out what we want to give the good folks on our holiday lists that we lose track of the financial impact. That can result in a big lump of coal in your bank account.
“I personally enjoy giving and this time of year people get generous, and often to a fault,” says Chapel Hill CPA Joel Levy. “Yet most of us have limited funds and can’t afford to spend wildly on any elective expenditures.”
It’s easy to overspend when we don’t pay in cash.
“We’ll oftentimes use credit cards and not think about what we’re spending or how we’ll end up paying it back, especially since interest will accrue and it will end up costing more than the cash price,” adds Levy, who also serves on the Thrift Shop board of directors.
4 Ways to Plan Holiday Spending
How can we give generously without getting into financial trouble?
1. Make a realistic budget. “It will do no good if it’s not prepared properly and on a ‘real’ basis,” Levy notes. Use reasonable estimates, not low ball guesses. Price information is readily available on the web, so you can build your budget without having to leave your eggnog alone by the fire.
2. Create a holiday gift account. Online banking makes it easy –and in some cases automatic – to stash a little bit of cash each month into a special account just for seasonal giving. (This is a great idea for a New Year’s resolution!)
3. Look for sales, discounts and other deals. Why wait to make your list till late in the year? Jot down the names of people you know you want to give to, then scope out merchandise year-round. You may find a screaming deal on cashmere gloves in April, or a bulk discount on something cool during a Christmas in July sale. Many retailers offer e-coupons and digital-only deals that can help you shop even smarter.
4. Shop smart. Discount retailers, consignment, resale and charity stores like the PTA Thrift Shop in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have high-quality items at a lower price, so your dollars go farther.
Use these tips to get more for your holiday spending.