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Sleigh-Bells Ring, But At What Cost?

Sleigh-bells ring, do you hate me?

Sleigh-bells ring, are you listening?

You’re not, are you?

Your fingers are pressed tightly into your ears, eyes scrunched tightly. Or maybe you’re frantically searching for the *block permanently* button…hang ongive me a second to explain….

Humour me. I get that we are still wearing our cute little sandals and our cute little tees. I may live in Canada, but I don’t actually live in an igloo. I am just being helpful, I swear. Read on, you’ll see…

See, there are many warm and fuzzy things to celebrate over the winter holidays. Unfortunately, while some of those warm fuzzy things come without a price tag –  like snuggling in front of the fire and cursing winter – lots of the festivities include a dollar sign or two. From the booze required to get through the frost or the funky new faux-fur lined boots for treks to the liquor store, the costs are astronomical. Not including gifts and entertainment and lipgloss, right?

And we are not saving for this. We take what should be an awesome time of the year, with all it’s booze glitter and festivities and turn it into one big financial regret.

We are a shameful people, I tell you.

But there is a solution. (This is the part where you forgive me for bringing up winter, btw!)

Laureen Miles Brunelli at About.com has our back. In their Set Your Holiday Budget Early and Save For Christmas Guide avoiding the post-holiday financial hiccups will be a breeze. Because we are going to get our fingers out of our ears and bravely open our eyes and simply prepare for it all. It’s really that simple! Here’s what she has to say:

1.Set up a Holiday savings account.

Have part of your paycheck direct deposited into a separate savings account that is solely for the purpose of saving for the holidays. Or, if you don’t get regular paychecks, set up an automatic transfer to the savings account. If you are a born spender, note the extra precautions to keep yourself from breaking in to your piggy bank prematurely.

2. Bank money you are owed as it’s repaid.

We often don’t think too much about the little sums of money we are owed by various sources, until the cash lands in our hands. Resist the urge to spend this money and instead make a habit of saving rebates from retailers (even if they are only a few dollars), refunds from utilities or insurance companies, reimbursements for expenses, repayment of other debts and other unexpected windfalls.

For self-employed, work-at-home moms, this strategy can be applied to payments for unexpected jobs. Or even resolve to set aside all the income from one client.

3. Give up something.

Giving up one of your little luxuries in order to buy a gift for someone else is a noble gesture. Set aside what you would spend on your daily latte or Friday night pizza or something that you’re much better off without anyway, like cigarettes. This strategy may be best left for the last few months before the holidays because you may not want to give up your little indulgence forever (unless it’s smoking!).

Spenders: The most practical way to recoup this cash is to calculate how much you spend on this item, and then deposit that amount into your holiday fund in advance, preferably on a weekly basis.

4. Count your pennies…literally.

Empty your pockets or purse daily into a change jar. Use collected change to start your holiday fund. If you use a change counting machine, you’ll pay a commission. Instead let the kids roll it and pay them the commission. It will keep them busy, and give them extra spending money for the holidays (something they might ask for anyway!).

To increase savings, don’t hand over a penny when the total ends in $.01. Take the $.99 and add it to your jar. If you make cash withdraws on a regular basis–every payday or each weekend–add any leftover cash at withdraw time to your change collection.

Spenders: Keep any cash you want to set aside in inconvenient denominations–large bills, change or dollar coins–until you can get it in the bank.

(Disclaimer: I write about personal finance. Oftentimes, I am avoided and ignored. While my fellow bloggers get invites to exclusive events and awesome sponsorships, I get glazed eyes and yawns. I am like the chamomile tea  of bloggers. There seems to be a misunderstanding about what personal finance is. Try to look at it like this:  My goal is to make your life awesome. Really and truly. If you understand, appreciate and apply a few essential financial basics, your life will be even more awesome. That’s it. So try not to yawn. Pretty please?)

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