Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Aw shucks it's Christmas" is the biggest challenge to my budget

Snow falling outside my window today, has me getting serious about a Christmas list. For years, I've made lists with the idea that at least I wouldn't get the same thing two years in a row for the same person. A list also helps me keep track of what I've purchased in the current year and gives me a rough idea of how much I'm spending.

The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American consumer will spend $688.87 on Christmas gifts this year. That's only a small 2.3 percent increase over last year's average spending.
I guess that's about where I am psychologically, now that I've left the full-time job and am heading into retirement with a budget and a smaller income. I view this as a challenge, not a burden, since it's all about finding the "right" gift, not how much you spend, right?!
J.D. Roth's GetRichSlowly daily e-newsletter provided a recent posting on gift-giving that rang true for me. I take encouragement from its message that the art of giving means thinking in terms of what the recipient might like not what you might like as a gift. This means doing short profiles on the people in my life....their interests, their passions, hobbies, what they do with their free time. The idea is to match those things with an appropriate gift. Buying for Jason, the six-year-old grandson, is the easiest with books and mechanical toys topping his list.
At the Wall Street Journal Web site, I found an article recommending that adults "negotiate a gift truce" to keep spending from getting out of hand. Among other spending tips:
- Focus on experiences instead of things.
- Set up funds for children, grandchildren. That would be among my favorites as a way to get the family thinking long-term.
- Then there's the stand-by recommendation to  budget and stick with it.
The writers at recommend doing your buying in cash. When it's gone, it's gone. And doing your homework on prices before walking into a store.
To avoid a holiday spending "hangover," experts at Fox Business remind us to take into account taxes on gift purchases and shipping costs. It's all money out of your pocket.
Can you believe it, the Federal Trade Commission has prepared a holiday shopping tips list with the No. 1 tip: Make a Budget.
If past behavior is a predictor of future behavior, I do well with my list and my spending budget right up until the last few days before Christmas. Then I go into an "Ah-Shucks-It's-Christmas" mode where I justify more spending because I decide that I don't have enough presents. Maybe this year, I'll do better on that front. Notice the word "maybe." Find a long list of inexpensive gift ideas at

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