The Winter holidays stress out everyone— even if you hardly observe them. There are crazily packed stores, even crazier traffic, parties, dinners, services, school exams… and the resultant January financial drain.
Here are ways to get some bank account and credit card relief during December:
Pre-budget your plan. Even if you plan on spending less, go through last year’s receipts and bills to see how much the season costs you. Figure out what expenditures you need this go-round, and what you can cut.
If your budget is looking extra tight, you could chart out the season on a calendar to track how much spending happens when.
Know your list before you hit the stores. Santa Claus has to be organized, even if he’s just buying a gag gift for a co-worker.
You’ll cut down on a ton of stress (and overspending) if you have a good idea of what your gift recipient wants. Great gifts can be found through browsing, but that takes time, stamina, and can easily inflate your budget.
Shop early. Most of us don’t shop on Christmas Eve (at least, we try not to), but kicking off on Black Friday is a nightmare. Retailers offer bargains year round, so snatching up a potential gift in August can be a real blessing.
(Be aware that some Christmas “sales” actually have inflated prices. Remember: the word SALE! can mean “on sale”, or “for sale”.)
Did you look online? Internet retailers can be cheaper than their real-world counterparts. Don’t forget shipping and handling.
Do-it-yourself gifts. They can be endearing or disastrous. At best, they’re a sign of love and a money saver. At worst, the needs and likes of the recipient are ignored, and your ten-year old nephew gets a pink bunny suit.
Don’t forget second-hand shops! There’s no shame in being “cheap” if that means giving an appreciated gift at a reasonable price. Second-hand stores can be goldmines.
Forget expensive gift wrap. Unless your recipient is a wrapping paper connoisseur, use an in-store wrapping service, or gift bags.
And once you have your holiday budgeted, you can celebrate knowing that you won’t be cleaned out in the New Year.
Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.
Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.
I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.
Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.
Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.