How to manage holiday spending

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‘Tis the season for spending. Holiday gifts, decorations, special meals and travel can take a toll on anyone’s budget. Oklahoma State University Extension has tips to help consumers keep their spending in check.

“To help keep your holiday budget on track, think about intentional or mindful spending,” said Suzette Barta, community engagement coordinator for OSU’s College of Education and Human Sciences – Extension, Engagement and Continuing Education. “It can be easy to overspend due to impulse buying, lack of planning or even making guilt-driven purchases.”

First, determine how much money is available for holiday spending; figure out what categories need funding, including gifts, food and decorations, and then set a budget in each category. Use cash instead of credit because it’s easy to overspend on credit without realizing it. Also, discuss expectations with the family.

“Set a dollar amount to spend on each other’s gifts, draw names for a secret gift exchange or suggest only handmade gifts for adults,” she said. “As families continue to grow with the addition of spouses and grandchildren, it can be a financial struggle for some families to continue traditional gift giving. Planning and setting a budget will help keep spending under control.”

Although shopping online is convenient, Barta suggests shopping local whenever possible.

“When consumers shop local, they’re supporting friends and neighbors and helping to keep money in the community,” she said. “These same businesses are the ones who support youth sports leagues and other community activities. Pop-up and holiday markets are great places to find unique gifts. Consumers can further help these small businesses by posting about their shopping experiences on social media. Following and sharing local posts is beneficial to these businesses.”

Shopping local also reconnects residents to their communities. Take time to visit the business district and support small businesses.

Enjoying the holidays doesn’t mean emptying the bank account. Families can experience holiday cheer by driving around town and looking at light displays or inviting the neighbors over for hot chocolate and board games.

“Holidays, despite what may be seen in a Hallmark movie, can be stressful. Don’t add to the stress by overspending,” Barta said. “Be mindful of how you shop and spend your money.”

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