Recently, in what I thought would be a quick Saturday errand, I got stuck in traffic. It took me a moment to realize that the holidays are upon us.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF®), from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online during the five-day holiday weekend, beating the 164 million estimated shoppers from an earlier survey. In fact, shoppers spent $1 million a minute on Black Friday and about $6.6 billion in total on Cyber Monday. The NRF® also found that consumers, both young and old, were spending more than last year, with both groups using the internet to browse for the best deals.

While it appears many consumers can spend unrestrained during the holidays, a lot of consumers find the holiday season stressful. Holidays require a lot of planning, and of course time and money.

A sensible way to approach the holiday season is to decide up-front what best fits the path you want to take. Come up with a plan, make a list (check it twice), and then stick to it.  You will be amazed at how this simple list trick can relax you and make your holidays more enjoyable and less stressful.

The American Financial Services Association Education Foundation has some useful ideas for using a holiday spending plan. First, create a holiday budget that is feasible for you, and be sure to include all the incidentals from decorations to wrapping materials. Next, prepare your list(s), then do your homework. There is a lot of competition for the consumer’s money, and searching the web not only for information but also for the best deals can help you stick to your budget and save some money (Example: some stores honor other store’s pricing).

Other ideas to help stay within your budget this holiday include:

  • Draw names with set limits on gift giving (Example: Aunt Marge – $15.00)
  • Make a gift (Example: Cranberry muffins)
  • Provide a service (Example: tackle a chore for a friend, neighbor, or loved one)
  • Switch to giving gifts of experience (Example: tickets to an event) The gift of experience can be both practical and educational, and moreover, memories are worth more than stuff!

Try not to get bogged down by holiday spending this holiday season. I encourage you to create a plan, write up a list (check it twice) and stick to it.  You will be glad you did!

The University of Florida Extension/IFAS – Leon County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Affirmative Action Institution.

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