Christmas in October?

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If the approaching holiday season sends you into a panic attack or triggers memories of overspending, maybe a little advance planning will make it easier to enjoy being with the ones you love instead of worrying about the bills to come. There’s no time like the present to get ready for a more responsible and relaxing holiday this year.             

Making a list
For many of us, the holidays can be synonymous with overindulgence. January is not just a time for getting back on a diet; it’s also time to deal with holiday overspending. Like giving in to that second piece of pie, it’s easy to get caught up in the free-spending spirit of gift buying, entertaining or holiday traveling.

If you need a little help estimating what it will take to pull off a holiday to remember, review your credit card bills from last year. Include everything, such as work parties, special clothes, event tickets, babysitters, gifts, travel, food, alcohol, New Year’s celebrations, and winter recreation. You can use OCCU’s holiday budget checklist to help remember all those little details. An added bonus: this list of reminders helps to get a head start on your holiday to-do list.         

Checking it twice
While you’re thinking ahead, give some extra consideration to things you might be able to cut back on. Look at your gift list and consider talking to family and friends about drawing names, setting a spending limit on gifts, or only buying for the kids. The holidays are expensive for all of us, so having a discussion early gets everyone on the same page and avoids misunderstandings.

Getting an early start and buying some presents in the next couple of months can help spread out the holiday spending. It also helps avoid desperation spending, like when you’re at the mall on Christmas Eve and will pay whatever price it takes to get that trendy doll for your daughter.

Gonna find out
You’ve made your list and built your budget. Now it’s time to figure out how much you’ll need to save. Let’s assume your budget comes out to $1,200. If you have three months left to save, divide your budget total by three and start saving by depositing $400 into the holiday fund for the next three months. If that seems like too much, remember that any amount you can aside now will help.

Deposit that money in your regular savings account or, even better, open a separate savings account. A personal savings account, such as OCCU’s holiday/tax savings account, lets you set the amount for automatic deposits from your checking or other savings account. Plus, you’ll earn .25% interest while saving, increasing the money you have for the holidays.

If you’re already planning on saving for a future holiday season, you may wish to consider a personal certificate account, otherwise known as a certificate of deposit or CD. If you know you won’t need to access your savings for at least 18 months, you can earn guaranteed interest starting at 1% on the certificate amount.

Santa Claus is coming to town
The holiday spending season will continue to arrive every year, so anything you can do to plan ahead will help avoid the January overspending blues. Whether you’re able to set a budget and stick to it or stash away some savings ahead of time, you’ll give yourself the gift of being able to enjoy the most important part of the holidays—spending quality time with family and friends.