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It’s only June, but not too early to prepare for holiday spending

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | June 13, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

With the summer months still ahead of us, the holiday season seems a long way off.

However, a workshop scheduled from 1-2:30 p.m. June 25 at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Military & Family Readiness Center serves as a reminder that it’s never too early to prepare for the holidays, especially when it comes to budgeting your hard-earned money.

“The holidays tend to sneak up on us every year,” said Don Lenmark, JBSA-Randolph M&FRC personal financial counselor. “I am facilitating this class on June 25 because it’s exactly six months before Christmas. That gives plenty of time in advance to plan ahead and look at the total cost of your happy holidays.”

“How to Survive the Holidays Financially” will show participants how to prepare a holiday spending plan, save on overall costs and control spending as well as minimizing debt while giving them time to collaborate with each other to come up with money-saving ideas and share their hard-luck overspending stories from Christmases past.

“We’ll use a great tool to sweep up all the crumbs of your expenses,” Lenmark said. “It’s a handout called ‘The Cost of Our Happy Holiday.’”

The spending plan covers every imaginable cost: gifts, donations to charities, photographs, holiday greetings, postage for sending cards and presents, decorations, gift wrapping, entertaining, baking, travel and miscellaneous expenses.

It’s detailed, for sure, but it’s only a template.

“You can make it as simple or detailed as you want,” Lenmark said. “It’s important just to have a framework to go by.”

Spending plans can also be used for special occasions throughout the year, such as birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, he said.

After learning about benefits of the spending plan, participants will be encouraged to determine what they can afford and save monthly to meet their anticipated expenses. This process involves making a list, examining priorities, setting a spending limit and tracking expenses.

One of the pitfalls of the holiday season is overdoing it, Lenmark said.

“Try hard not to feel obligated to buy something for everyone,” he said. “You want to bring joy to others by giving gifts, but some people can go overboard and depression or guilt can sometimes come from that afterwards. With this class, we’re trying to alleviate the January effect, the post-holiday blues that can sometimes occur, when all the bills come due on credit card purchases.”

The class will feature two break-out sessions, when participants will share ideas on less costly gift-giving alternatives and talk about the “regretful mistakes” that have caused them to spend too much money during past holiday seasons, Lenmark said.

“It’s cool to see what people come up with for their gift-giving alternatives,” he said. “We want people to share their pearls of wisdom.”

As an example, Lenmark mentioned a service member who created a video singing a Christmas song and posted it on YouTube as a gift to a friend.

“Or if you’re an artist, you can use your talents to share something that’s very personalized,” he said.       

The regretful holiday spending mistakes participants share during the workshop will make them realize they are not alone.

“This happens to everyone at some point,” Lenmark said. “It’s easy to lose track of all the holiday expenses made and, if no budget is in place, it’s so easy to keep adding and adding without realizing how much money is spent overall. Then, when the bills hit in January, that can sometimes turn into what I call a ‘holy wow’ moment.”

Avoiding those January bills is important because high credit card interest rates can make a bad financial situation even worse.

One way to keep debt in check is to start a savings account devoted to holiday spending, Lenmark said.

“One possible strategy is to call your bank and set up a new account to start purposefully setting money aside for the holidays,” he said. “That way you’re not taking money from your regular checking and savings accounts to make holiday purchases.”

Lenmark said he will also talk about apps and websites that can help people in their quest to survive the holidays financially.

“We want to teach people to manage their costs effectively so they feel better throughout the holiday season,” he said.

To register for the class, call 210-652-5321.