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NEWS | Dec. 11, 2009

Tips for holiday spending

By Master Sgt. Carol Dorman 316th Force Support Squadron first sergeant

As we approach the holidays, the air is filled with the sights and sounds of festivities, which help put us in the mood to make others happy. And, as we all know, it is not uncommon to do so by bestowing gifts on our loved ones. Gift giving is a great gesture, and as a leader, I encourage you take care of the ones close and dear to you. However, try to do so in a way that doesn't over extend you or your budget. Have no fear that there are ways that we can spend during the holidays without having regrets! I came across an article from the Institute of Consumer Financial Education that gave some great tips on Christmas giving in economic hard times. In summary, it stated that:

1. One of the best things that you can do for you and your loved ones is pay for Christmas gifts without using your credit card. Of course this can be attained by being creative in finding ways during the year to stash away a small amount of cash in a financial institution where you do not have easy access to the funds. This can also be done through a Christmas Club account at your local bank or a high interest-yielding savings account.

2. If you absolutely have to use your credit card, make sure you do not spend more than you can pay off at the end of the month. This will prevent you from paying the interest rate or a high credit card bill. Just think, if you buy a high priced item on your credit card and you do not pay off the balance in several years, you could possibly end up paying almost twice the amount for that item. That is money that could be spent constructively instead of just throwing it away.

3. Set a dollar amount that you are willing to spend for the holidays. No matter what, stick with that amount. Of course, this will take a lot of discipline, but it will also keep you out of a financial bind. Being attuned to what you want to give as a gift as opposed to what you can afford goes a long way. It is very easy to get carried away during the holiday season when we see all the great items that we could purchase. Keep things in perspective and avoid impulse buying.

4. Buy generic gifts in bulk that can be given to any gender. For example, candles and other knick-knacks are ideal to be individually wrapped and given to multiple recipients.

5. Give the gift of your time. We often think that we have to give our friends and families tangible gifts. However, you would be surprised how many people would actually appreciate a gift such as watching the kids so that the parents could spend some time alone. Using your talents is always good. Giving someone some freshly baked cookies is always an option. Also, writing someone a poem goes a long way as this is something that can be cherished and will never perish.

6. Christmas is a good time to give to others who cannot give back something in return. It is a great feeling to give to someone less fortunate, especially if they are not expecting it. We can often do that by giving some of our time to volunteering or by donating a small amount of money to a charity. So, instead of getting yourself something for Christmas, give to others in need. I believe that Christmas should be about giving and not receiving.

As professionals, we know the importance and consequences of maintaining a financial balance. A moment of happiness that is going to cost a season of regrets is never a good thing for you or the ones you love. So, as we spread joy, remember what should be important is your intention of giving a gift. A gift is something you want someone to have. This can be in any size, form or shape. I am by no means trying to discourage you from making others happy with gifts, but encouraging you to do so in moderation. While in the holiday spirit, spend time with your friends and family and shower them with lots of love. Happy holidays and peace and love for all!