Springboard Recommends How To Track Your Holiday Spending This Year

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Start Planning for 2013 Holiday Shopping Right Now

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Tracking everything you spend for the holidays this year will make it possible to create a specific spending plan for future holiday seasons, and you’ll have all year to save up the money you need.

It may be too late for many consumers to create a holiday budget for 2012 and save up the money they need, but a little extra effort now can give you all the info you need to create a successful plan for next year.

"We teach consumers to track their spending as part of the budgeting process," said Sheri Stuart, Education Department Manager for Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management. "Tracking everything you spend for the holidays this year will make it possible to create a specific spending plan for future holiday seasons, and you’ll have all year to save up the money you need."

Besides gifts, consumers should track spending on decorations, holiday meals, and any other seasonal spending.

"The amount people spend on the holidays might surprise them," Stuart said. "It’s always higher than one might think, and consumers tend to put all of the spending on credit cards so they can put off the reckoning until the credit card bill comes. That’s the opposite of what consumers should be doing."

Instead, Springboard recommends tracking every dollar spent this year, and then creating a plan to save up that amount for next year.

Of course, everyone who puts this year’s spending on credit cards will need to come up with a plan to pay off that debt as well. If the tracking is thorough and accurate enough, one can plan to set aside 1/12 of one’s holiday spending every month for the next year, so 2013’s holidays will be paid for ahead of time, instead of charged to credit cards where they will rack up further fees and interest.

"If one tracks holiday spending, there’s also an opportunity to create a realistic budget that saves money from current spending," Stuart said. "For instance, the national average holiday spending is roughly $750. If your family spends more than that, you can create a budget that brings you in line with everyone else. Or if times are tight for your family financially, use your tracking of this year’s spending to create a realistic budget plan for next year that cuts your current spending by ten or fifteen percent."

Springboard is hoping consumers will connect with relatives and friends over Thanksgiving. This is a good time to discuss the many variations to a holiday gift exchange. From a theme-based activity that involves everyone in the family, including the children, to a charity-given focus wherein gifts are purchased and then donated to a local organization, there are many ways to make gift-giving memorable without taxing the family budget. A survey revealed that 68 percent of people bought gifts for themselves when holiday shopping. This is definitely a budget buster.    

In preparing to shop for gifts this holiday season, Springboard offers the following additional wallet-friendly tips for consumers:

-- Make a list of who you are buying gifts for and the budgeted amount for their gift.
-- Find inexpensive, but clever ways to wrap your gifts (include that cost in your budget). Inexpensive gifts can be admired and enjoyed for how they are wrapped!
-- Plan a time to shop. Running around on lunch hours and evenings after work or shopping with young children is exhausting and not very productive. Arrange for a day or half-day off to do your shopping. You may be able to trade babysitting with a friend to give you more time.
-- Be an efficient shopper. If you are looking for a specific gift, "let your fingers do the walking" and call stores to find out if they have it. Also, consider shopping online. Online auctions such as eBay are great places to find bargains, but be aware of how much similar items cost at retail.
-- Use your debit card
-- Stick to your budget and make a commitment to yourself not to overspend.

Springboard provides these tips to help manage holiday expenses so consumers will look back at the holidays of 2012 with good memories of joy and celebration, not financial struggles and regret.

Springboard has provided credit counseling services to more than 2 million consumers with debt issues over the past four decades. Find their free "Surviving the Holidays" seminar materials at their web site, or check out other free budgeting courses in their online FIT Academy.

About Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management
SPRINGBOARD® Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, Inc. ("Springboard") is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit personal financial education and counseling organization founded in 1974. Springboard is an approved housing counseling regional intermediary by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation signifying the highest standards in the industry for agency governance, fiscal integrity, counselor certification and service delivery policies. In addition, Springboard is a member of both national industry associations; the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Credit Counseling Agencies. Springboard offers personal financial education and confidential counseling in foreclosure prevention, rent, reverse mortgage, pre-bankruptcy and debtor education, and debt and money management. Springboard provides telephone counseling services nationwide, and maintains offices in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, South Carolina and Massachusetts for in-person sessions. Not all types of counseling are available at all locations. For more information on Springboard, please visit their web site at http://www.springboard.org.

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