Brian J OConnor 2009: Holiday Bells

Brian J OConnor

Holiday bells are ringing already here at Your Money — at least if you don’t want to get clobbered by holiday bills.
Face it — no real emergency involves the word “eggnog.” That leaves us just three choices, people: Plan, save and budget. The more you save now, the less you’ll have to scrimp when the holidays roll around, so get started. Hunt up last year’s account statements and estimate what you spent on the holidays, covering not just presents but everything from the plane ride to Grandmother’s house to the menorah candles and Kwanzaa cards. And I mean all of it: Scotch tape, Prozac refills, the works. Cut what you can, take the total and that’s your holiday budget. Stash that cash in a separate savings account. Use automated deposits to take a set amount out of every paycheck, if you’ve still got one, and consider an online money market checking account, which pays a higher rate of interest. Clip coupons, brown-bag your lunch and cut out some discretionary spending now to have a holly jolly later. One easy way to find more dough is to check your paycheck withholding. If you get a big tax refund in April, adjust your withholding (use the calculator at ) to get that money now and send it directly to your holiday savings account. If you can make your gift purchases now instead of rushing around with the holiday throngs, divert cash from your savings and do it. You’re less likely to panic and overspend in August and September than on Christmas Eve, when you’re madly dashing around, desperate not to disappoint a special someone.
And don’t just think about gifts. Do the family holiday cards now, and you’ll have time print them on your home computer instead of paying for a rush job at the card shop four months from now.

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