7/04/2011

Christmas in July - Shift the Date

Holidays can be overwhelming.  Places to be, relatives to visit, meals to plan and host, events and parties galore.  It is all good, but sometimes can be too much.  Shear logistics of managing the schedules and events can be so difficult that it can take the joy out of the actual experience. 

Virginia Saves has an idea that can keep the joy of the season but spread more throughout the year as well!  Creative celebrations can bring new life to old routines and to keep the spirit of the season all year long.  One idea is to shift some of the celebrations normally reserved for November and December to times when you can have more intentional focus. 

Summertime can be a great time for breaking from routines and reconnecting with family.  Shared vacations can be a great way to bond with sisters, cousins, aunts and grandparents.  Consider adding some family fun to your get togethers by having Christmas celebrations out of season.  It can help you keep the season in your heart and remember all the reasons for the holiday.

Who says you can't enjoy a turkey feast with all the trimmings during the summer.  Perhaps even plan a Christmas party with family and friends.  Singing holiday music, like "Let it Snow" can create some festivities and add a lot of fun to the summertime heat!  Plan a gift exchange and pull out all the ornaments and baubles from your last celebration to bring new life and joy to your summertime fun!

Christmas in July - The Best Gifts

By making plans now for the holiday season, you have plenty of time to save for that very special gift for the ones you love most.  But what you may not have considered is that by planning now, you can make personal gifts that will not only tell your loved ones you care at Christmas, but all year long.

Our friends at Virginia Tech Extension Services put together some ideas of gifts that you can use to make this year the most special one ever.  Use this Holiday Gift List to stimulate your thinking to make or buy a very personal gift that will be remembered not only Christmas week, but may become a centerpiece kept all year long.

Christmas in July - Counting the Costs

Have you ever wanted something but weren't sure how much it would cost?  Maybe it was a remodeling project, some landscaping, or perhaps a car.  It is very surreal to make plans for something when you don't know the costs, but frequently that is how many approach the holidays each year.  Without a real figure to plan for, we set aside way too little in savings because the costs are so indefinate.

Virginia Saves with some help from our friends at the Virginia Tech Extension Services have put together a planning tool to help you identify and plan for the costs of the holidays.  This budget worksheet can help you plan for all  the costs of the holiday and build a budget that will ensure that you have more than sufficient funds to meet your needs when the time comes.

If you read our last blog post, you know how to go about creating the gift giving list, but that is just the start of the total holiday costs.  With this holiday planner, you can plan for the food, travel, gifts and all the other incidental costs of the holidays and be prepared for the best season of your life!

If you need some help pulling together the costs, take a look at your bank statement from last year to get an estimate for the costs of postage, cards, food, etc.  If you use on-line banking or a credit card, often you can review history and get estimates that way.  Don't forget that with a plan in hand, you can look for special discount and sales in the off-season that will allow you to cut the costs and still enjoy a full celebration during the season.

Planning also reduces impulse buying as you have plenty of time to plan for and make the right purchases.  Advertisers thrive on incentivising you to act on impulse, but impulse buying can be very costly and not very satifying in the end.  The joy of the purchase leaves soon after the act and you are often left with the fallout of the costs of your decision.  Impulse buying disconnects you from your goals and priorities and drives you to act on the immediate desire.

Finally, buy building your budget now, you can make adjustments to your savings plan so that if additional funds are required to make your holiday dreams come true, you have enough time to make the adjustment.  You may also find that you may have been saving more than what was needed and you can redirect that spending to other priorities in your life. 

Planning ahead will destress your holiday and make this season the best ever.  Tell us what you did to enhance your holiday!  We want to hear from you!

7/01/2011

Christmas in July - Making a List

As the savvy saver, we know you have become, you have already begun making plans for your future by setting aside savings to cover the costs.  In preparing for Christmas you may already have begun participating in a Christmas Club or have some savings set aside for the holidays.  By preparing ahead, you take the financial and emotional stress out of the holidays and add to the celebration of the season.  The most effective way to stretch your dollars is to disconnect financial decisions from emotional stress and impulses. 

With this in mind Virginia Saves in partnership with Virginia Tech Extension Service has prepared a Christmas list to help you plan ahead even during the summer so that you can find that perfect gift for those special ones in your heart.  The best part is that you can do this without the use of debt to haunt you into the New Year.  The concept is simple and we have attached a form to assist.   Holiday Gift List

Step one:  Identify the people on your holiday shopping list.  Remember not only immediate family but also remember those other gifts that crop up during the season, like the office party, your women's club, neighbors, the baby sitter, the mailman...all the people who have impacted your year.  To help you - begin making a list of those people you purchased for last year and then modify your list from there.

Step two:  Identify the dollar amount you would like to spend for that person's gifts.  You can use an amount from last year and make adjustments or get creative this year... since you have time to plan ahead, you can perhaps make something more personal saving money and adding personality to your gift at the same time.  See our article on Creative Gift Giving this Christmas.

Step three:  Total up the amounts for the individual gifts and now you have an amount for your Christmas Gift Giving Budget.  See our article on Budgeting for Christmas.

Step four: Now that you have people, amounts and even perhaps ideas for gifts in mind, you can start tucking away items over the next few months to destress the shopping portion as well.