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Budgeting after the Holidays

December 22nd, 2011 at 06:33 pm

So the holidays are over. You've bought everything from baby dolls to power tools and your wallet is begging for mercy. Your credit cards have been worn to a nub. Sound familiar?

If you find yourself in dire financial straits and would like to remedy the situation, follow these ten steps to make your wish a reality:

1. Stop spending. I know this may seem overly simplistic, but sometimes, when you get in the habit of spending money, it's not an easy habit to break. Because you were out and about, you may have become accustomed to picking up a latte in the afternoon to rejuvenate yourself, and that's all well and good, but you will not be able to achieve your goal if you nickel and dime your money away.

2. Find out the full extent of the damage. Go through all of your receipts and credit card statements, and try to organize everything in one place—in the form of a list, on a spreadsheet, whatever strikes your fancy. The key here is to be honest with yourself, and to organize everything as efficiently as you can, so you have the most accurate picture of your finances.

3. Look at what you owe. Instead of thinking of these as several small bills, look at the overall amount, and divide it by however many months you think you can reasonably have your debt paid down. The key word there is "reasonably".

4. Pull out your current budget. If you don't have one, make one. This can be done by simply taking note of your income, then noting all of your expenditures (separated into various categories), then doing a little math. Once you have your budget in front of you, take the monthly amount that you calculated in step 3 and plug it into your existing budget.

5. Don't panic. You will undoubtedly notice that you suddenly have a lot less disposable income, but surely you saw this one coming. The only way you will be able to keep your head above water is if you learn how to tighten your belt and need/want less.

6. Start to brainstorm on ways to save money. Clip coupons, seek out sales, hit the discount bins…whatever it takes. Just refer to step #1, and when you must spend, do it as frugally and wisely as you can.

7. Learn to enjoy your frugal lifestyle. Don't think of this as a momentary lull in your spending before the holidays roll around again. Embrace frugality! There are plenty of places you can go that are free or almost free, and there are many things that you simply don't need. By reprioritizing your spending, you won't have to do this again next year.

8. Allow yourself a tiny treat here and there. While I staunchly advocate living a thrifty lifestyle, there are occasions when you deserve to treat yourself. Go for it! Be wise about your "treat"—don't let it be anything more than $20 unless it's for a really special occasion—and don't allow yourself too many of them, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. By treating yourself on occasion, you will better able to maintain your penny-pinching ways.

9. Start saving and shopping for the holidays early. Always look at discount and dollar bins, and any sale that you come across, in order to make small purchases throughout the year (rather than waiting until the last minute and doing panic-shopping). If you can, pay for these gifts with cash, and set a limit on how much you will spend on each person.

10. Maintain your resolve. There will undoubtedly be moments when you are tempted to slip back into your old spending ways, but be strong and resist the urge. Remember how horrified you felt when you saw how deeply in debt you were, and how good it felt to slowly climb out of your financial morass. Don't get caught back up in the spend-owe cycle. Open a savings account instead, and place any money you were tempted to spend in it instead.

1 Responses to “Budgeting after the Holidays”

  1. Petunia 100 Says:

    These are some great tips! Welcome to Saving Advice. Smile

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