Don't let the holidays harm your financial health

Don't let the holidays harm your financial health

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SALT LAKE CITY — Although this festive time of year gives families and friends ample opportunities for parties, gifts and get-togethers, the costs of these can really add up. It can also take a toll on your health, both physical and financial.

Reduce your stress and keep your financial health in balance by following a few tips to maximize your cost-savings and avoid monetary pitfalls during these exciting, festive but potentially stressful days.

The key to making the holidays easier on your wallet is to determine a spending budget. While this may seem like a needless exercise, the more you practice making and sticking to a budget, the more you'll realize the difference it can make on your finances. Start your budget by making a list (and checking it twice!) of those for whom you'll need to buy gifts. Estimate how much each gift will cost and then add it up. If the total is more than you're comfortable spending this season, make adjustments to your list (like down-grading from an iPad to an iPad Mini).

Once you have your holiday budget, you're halfway there. Follow these tips to keep your budget in check.

Holiday Savings Tips

  • Choose homemade or handcrafted gifts. If you have a special talent, the holidays are the perfect time to share it.
  • Check for online promotion codes. This is the era of social media and many online users and websites share promotion codes and discount offers. Oftentimes a discount or free shipping is just a search away.
  • Use store layaway programs, but only if they don't require paying additional fees or interest.
  • Browse sale racks. Almost everything goes on sale eventually, so keep an eye out for a bargain.
  • Visit name-brand clearance centers; they carry overstocked and discontinued items priced with heavy discounts.
  • Create a new tradition, like drawing names or starting a gift rotation. Or forego gifts altogether and opt for a special party or activity together.
  • By one or two gifts per month leading up to November. Your December budget will thank you.

Planning ahead can really pay off come December. For instance, next year try opening a dedicated savings account and make small deposits throughout the year in order to cover your holiday expenses. You can even have a portion of your electronic paycheck directly deposited into your savings account, so your holiday savings accrual is worry-free.

You may also want to look into services available from your bank or credit union. Several financial institutions offer their customers the ability to skip a loan payment during the winter months in order to allocate more funds toward your holiday budget. For instance, America's First Credit Union allows customers to skip one qualified loan payment for just $25, which can free up some much-needed cash. Plus, America First will donate $5 for each skipped payment to their Community Assistance Program.

To save even more, check the interest rates on your credit cards. You may be throwing money away each month on high rates. Consider moving your high-interest credit card balances to a lower interest card. This may not only help you budget for the holiday season, but also put you in a better financial position for coming year.

If you have larger debts, consider consolidation. You can lower your payments and simplify your accounts through a home equity loan, auto equity loan or personal loans.

Trimming your spending may not be as fun as trimming your tree, but it can definitely help make the holiday season less taxing — both financially and emotionally.

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