The weather is starting to change here in Colorado, and boy am I thankful! I’ve turned into quite the wimp since moving from Vegas seven years ago and can’t handle the heat like I used to.
For me, the cooler weather always brings an anticipation of the holidays. From now until the 1st of January is my favorite time of year – but it also adds a little financial stress. Seems like the grocery bill gets bigger and the shopping gets out of control. Anybody relate?
Now’s the time to make a plan you can stick to, so you’re not having regrets before the new year even starts.
As the holiday season starts to wind up, don’t let your financial goals get sidetracked. Use this checklist to help you stay focused on making wise financial decisions.
1. Create A Christmas Budget
Don’t put this off! Create a spending plan this month so you’ll have plenty of time to shop for good deals before Christmas.
Here are a few things to consider when making a Christmas budget:
- create a gift list for everyone you’ll give to
- include expenses such as wrapping, decorations, extra groceries, etc.
- know what you’re spending limit is for the entire budget
- creating a system to track your spending
It’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and go overboard with Christmas shopping. But if you plan early, stick to a budget, and pay with cash, you’re less likely to fall into emotional spending.
And you won’t be stressing over a credit card bill come January.
2. Plan Your Holiday Travel
If you plan to travel over Thanksgiving or Christmas, now is the time to look for airfare deals. According to AAA, the best prices can be found between late September and late October.
You’ll get the best bargain if your schedule is flexible. Ticket prices are usually low for the Monday before Thanksgiving and even lower if you fly on the holiday. Catching a plane on Christmas Eve will also save you a few bucks.
Just be careful about return airfare. Flying back on December 26 will put the biggest dent in your pocket.
3. Begin Winterizing Your Home
Okay, so this doesn’t really apply if you live in the southwest. But for those who enjoy the snow and colder temps, September is a good time to make some simple adjustments to lower your utility bill.
Here are a few easy changes and repairs you can do to make your home more energy efficient:
- Add some new caulking around your windows
- Replace the weatherstripping around your doors
- Wrap your water heater in a water heater blanket
- Change your furnace filters
- Add more insulation to your attic
- Lower your thermostat
If you’re ready to make a bigger investment, you can replace your windows with double- or triple-panes, install insulated doors, or get a programmable thermostat.
To know you’re doing all you can to make your home the most energy efficient it can be, you may want to get a home energy audit. This professional assessment will identify how much gas and electricity your home is consuming, and ways you can make it more efficient.
4. Declutter Your Financial Files
True confession: there is a box in our garage somewhere labeled “Old Files” that we have kept for … ooohhhhh … about 15 years.
Don’t do that.
If you have bank statements, pay stubs, or old bills that are older than 2 years, do yourself a favor and throw them away. They are not important and you don’t need them taking up space in your home and your life.
Take the time this month to go through your files and pull out all the documents that are no longer relevant or significant. Use your own shredder, or look for community events that will provide this service for free. Just get rid of them.
If you’re unsure about any, simply create a digital file and scan them into your computer.
You’ll have more free space in your home and you’ll feel more organized as you begin the (sometimes) chaotic holiday season.
5. Have A Dream Meeting With Your Spouse
One of my favorite things about the holidays is spending quality time with family. What better way to do this with your significant other than to talk about your future dreams of retirement?
Though this task is appropriate during any month of the year, this season just tends to bring out the generous spirit in each of us. And when you and your spouse talk about your expectations of the future, you may need an extra dose of generosity.
It’s very likely you won’t have the same vision, so you’ll need to be open to compromise and resist judging his ideas. Remember, you’re both in this together. This is why it’s important to be intentional about planning your retirement as partners. You need to find a comfortable place to meet in the middle so both of you are working toward the same goals.
Plan Your Checklist
About this time every year I feel a certain buzz in the air. More energy, more plans, more busy-ness. I start decorating the house, pulling out holiday recipes, and buying snickerdoodle candles. I love it.
So, as a result, my focus starts to get a little blurry when it comes to my finances. I’m not as tight with the spending or purposeful with what I buy. That’s why it’s important to have a plan.
A checklist is a great start and gives some direction. But it doesn’t serve you unless you actually plan it.
As you hang up your Fall wreaths and decorate your porch with pumpkins, I just want to encourage you to keep your money matters in focus. Use this checklist to help you stay on track so the choices you make this holiday season are still in line with your financial goals.
Happy Fall, ya’ll!