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Holidays: Living (and Giving) Large This Holiday Season…With What You Have.

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are right around the corner.  As America begins to recover from the recession, it’s imperative to face your current financial reality.  Many of us experienced a job loss, a drop in our savings or salary this year.  Therefore, our holiday activities and intentions need to shift with our current financial situation.  But this doesn’t mean that we have to be a Scrooge either! 

First of all, start thinking about the true meaning of the holidays.  It’s not about the material things – the gifts, shopping, etc. – nor is it the feeling of “keeping up with the Joneses.”  It’s about living authentically.   Take a minute to look at your finances objectively and honestly.  What can you really afford this year?  The financial choices you make today will create your new reality for tomorrow so put that credit card away this year!  Next, learn to live in the present moment.  What happened this past year to you financially is done.  There is nothing you can change about it now.  You can only change the present moment so enjoy the holiday and make the best of it with what you DO have!

Here are a few ways to live large this holiday season with what you have.
1. Plan Ahead
Determine your cash flow for holiday spending at least one month in advance.  This includes gifts, greeting cards, postage, shipping costs, wrapping paper and other supplies, the Christmas tree, decorations, holiday meals, travel expenses and general entertainment. Make a list of family and friends who will receive gifts this year and write down how much you will spend on each.  Be sure to stick with your prioritized budget. 

2. Open a Christmas Club Account
Many banks offer a specific savings plan to help customers put away money for the Holidays. At the beginning of each year, start diverting a certain amount of money each month automatically into this account. By the time the holidays roll around, you will have generating a bulk sum for holiday spending.  It may be too late for this year, but this is something you can implement right away in January for next year. 

3. Do Your Research
Pore through the newspaper ads each week looking for the best deals on your gift list.  Visit several different stores to do price comparisons. You can also get on the Internet to check prices.

4. Beware of Store Credit Cards
Many department stores and other specialty stores offer a one-time discount when you make a purchase on their credit card. Be cautious when signing up because these cards often have interest rates of 20 percent and higher. If you tend to carry a balance on your credit cards, the interest rate often outweighs the original purchase price. 

5. Be Creative
Instead of trying to keep up with the Jones’s, be creative with your giving.  Do you have a special artistic talent or a hobby?  Consider making your gifts.  Or offer to volunteer your time for someone who needs a babysitter, or needs help around the house. These are often the most meaningful gifts and it’s still the thought that counts.

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