Tis the season to be jolly...and to overspend and overindulge. Black Friday is once again upon us, and I challenge everyone to have a plan going into the holidays, rather than just winging it and hoping for the best. Since I visit with most of my clients early in the year, I often hear stories about the holidays and most are filled with stress and regrets of spending too much money. How can you turn your holidays into something stress free and enjoyable?Most importantly, try to focus more on the little moments and less on the expensive gifts. I heard a great message from Lisa White, local spiritual counselor. She says "give the gift of presence, not the gift of presents." If you do nothing else but keep that motto in mind during the holidays, it will help you focus on what's most important.Of course, I always believe in the power of budgets and the holidays are not an exception. When figuring your expenses for the year, come up with an amount that you can allocate to gift spending and stick to it. Another technique for saving money is to shop year- round. The week after Christmas is a great time to stock up for the next year, but I also visit consignment stores and sales throughout the year and pick up gifts that I know my kids and family will love the following year. Then, when the holidays roll around, I pull out the gifts and don't fall victim to the relentless holiday pressure.No doubt, retail commercials throughout the holiday season make it especially tricky if you have children. What better time to teach your kids how to prioritize what they really want, and have them choose one or two special gifts, without you giving in to the long wish list. I will admit I was spoiled as a child and I still hear stories about how I quit opening gifts mid-morning and fell asleep among the wrapping paper. I've taken a different approach with my kids and they each get a few gifts that we then spend the day playing with together as a family. It's a much different experience than I grew up with, but I hope it will produce equally wonderful memories.No one should feel trapped by the holidays. Nothing kills the spirit more than being forced to do the same things, the same way, year after year. Do you have relatives that you exchange $50 gift cards every year? Why not mix it up and ask them for homemade gifts only? Do you have a dozen nieces and nephews, but have no kids of your own? Maybe it's time to ask your siblings if you can buy one gift for each family, rather than having to purchase 12 individual gifts. As I can't say enough, I believe one of the secrets to happiness is having financial security. In that spirit, don't let the holidays hold you hostage. Instead, be proactive and be present, and see how enjoyable the holidays can be when you are not paying the financial price for months to come.Michele Knight, owner of Knight Accounting & Technology, is a CPA and QuickBooks ProAdvisor based in Dillon. For more info and to contact her, visit www.cpamichele.com.
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