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Choose A Happy Holiday Season

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It’s the beginning of November which means holiday spiced coffees, the excitement of spending time with family and friends and the beginning of that yearly holiday spending spree. From holiday travel plans (those flights aren’t going to pay for themselves) to Secret Santa’s to making sure there are enough gifts under your own tree, this season brings so much joy – and so much stress; especially for those prone to charge now and pay – and stress – later.

Is this you?

As a financial planner, I deal with debt a lot. Like most young people, I came out of college with debt and created more throughout my twenties to just keep up the pace. It’s an overwhelming and sometimes down-right depressing cycle to find yourself in. You want to do all the things your friends and family are doing – especially during this very special time of year – but you don’t want to dig a hole deeper than the one you’ve already created. When the holidays are over and all is said and done, we know what comes next. With overspending always comes the self-imposed guilt.

“I should know better than this.”

“I didn’t have to buy that purse. Why did I do that?”

 “No one else would have gotten that if they were in my situation.”

It’s time to stop. All of it. Stop maxing out the credit cards with no plan to soften the financial blow. Stop dipping into your savings to buy “just one more thing.” And, most importantly, stop beating yourself up over doing things that most of us have done at one time or another.

One of the most useless human emotions is guilt. Guilt is saturated in judgement and negativity. Why are you inviting those feelings and thoughts into your being? Just because you’ve made a few mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human. There is nothing you’ve done financially that can’t be fixed with some targeted moves in a different direction. A direction that moves towards the financial life you desire. It’s more than possible, and all you have to do is choose to make your financial health a priority.

Action step

It’s never too late to make the financial changes you need to make in order to get that life you desire. Spend time over the next few days looking at your financial habits. Where is your money going? When are you most prone to spend? What feelings are associated with what purchases? Write down the answers to those questions and think about how those answers make you feel. Next, look at what makes you the most nervous about these next two months. Is it maxing out your credit cards? The interest rates? Getting the bill? Or is it dipping into a savings to buy a coworker a gift that – let’s be honest – you’re not even that invested in?

It’s still early enough in the holiday shopping season to set up a good financial plan. Look at the last few months of bank statements and determine where you’re spending your money. Figure out what you can adjust without completely limiting your daily life. Then devote a few hours to laying out a plan of attack; determine how much money you’re comfortable spending this season and start setting aside money from each paycheck to put towards that total. This will allow you to comfortably manage your cash flow while still being able to enjoy the holiday season without maxing out your credit card, depleting your bank account or feeling the full effects of the “holiday hangover.”

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