Prepare Your Finances Now for the Holiday Season

Holiday Shopping

It is the time of year when leaves change colors, cooler temperatures arrive and the holidays — along with their gatherings and celebrations — approach rapidly. From traveling to buying meals and gifts, the holidays can not only be busy, but also put a significant dent in your wallet.

If you haven’t yet started thinking about holiday expenses, now is a great time to do so. Here are a few things to consider to help you get through the holidays with greater financial ease.

Determine how much you have to spend. The best way to head into the holiday season is to know that you are not going into debt to pay for it all. Start by determining your cash flow: take your household income and subtract your expenses. If you have positive cash flow, you’re in good shape and will have an idea of what you will be able to spend comfortably through the next few months. If you have little to negative cash flow, the next two tips can help you avoid going further into the red. (You also might want to revise your overall budget — and create one if you don’t yet have one).

Consider celebrating without spending much cash. If you believe that to play or travel more, you have to work harder, give some thought to “experiences” rather than “appearances.” A festive holiday meal with friends or family doesn’t have to be at an expensive restaurant or be a huge catered event. Consider having people over for a potluck dinner or decide that only one or two big meals out during the holidays is all you’ll do. And, if you plan to travel, start looking into airfare and other expenses now. Often, the earlier you book the better off you will be in terms of availability and cost. If you like to do research, hunt for deals online.

Give gifts from the heart. If you find yourself with a tight budget, show how much you care by doing a good deed for someone. Watch your neighbor’s dog while she’s away, do an extra round in the carpool or be creative based on what you know to be meaningful to those on your list. You can also make something out of items you already have. If you have a large family, you could suggest drawing names so that everyone purchases and receives one gift (kids, too). It’s not only the thought that counts, but also the love and care you put into it.

Take care of you first. Although we often prioritize visiting and giving gifts to others during the holidays, it is perfectly fine to take care of yourself financially, first, without feeling guilty. Take the money you may have saved from being more modest with your holiday spending and use it to pay down credit card debt, make an extra loan payment or invest. When you take care of yourself financially, you are better able to help others when they need it.

Let this holiday season be your opportunity to make better decisions, in advance, about where your money goes. May your holidays be joyous, peaceful and paid for with ease.

kristen-fricks-roman Kristen Fricks-Roman is a Financial Advisor with the Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Atlanta. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives. Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee their accuracy or completeness. Morgan Stanley and its Financial Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Before investing, investors should consider whether tax or other benefits are only available for investments in the investor’s home state 529 college savings plan. Investors should carefully read the Program Disclosure statement, which contains more information on investment options, risk factors, fees and expenses, and possible tax consequences before purchasing a 529 plan. You can obtain a copy of the Program Disclosure Statement from the 529 plan sponsor or your Financial Advisor. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC.  CRC 2235406 09/18

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