Take a Traditional Approach

piggybanksantahatIf you’re among the 65 percent of Americans planning to cut back on holiday spending as reported in a new Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, the Illinois CPA Society suggests taking a traditional approach to the season. Retailers are putting an old-fashioned spin on the holidays with comforting traditions like red and green decorations and resurrecting old ideas like layaways and Christmas Clubs. Give some thought to using these programs and add a few time-tested ideas of your own to make the holiday enjoyable and affordable.
• It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so plan ahead for it. Once popular Christmas Club accounts are making a comeback. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Christmas Clubs, usually at local banks, offered a special savings account on which you earned a little interest before you withdrew the money for holiday shopping. Check out the details of new variations on the idea, like Christmas Club Cards offered by retailers or see if this type of account is offered though your credit union.

• Bring things home for the holidays (but not before you pay them). Consider using layaway programs being reintroduced by retailers. Layaway programs allow you to put aside items and pay for them in installments usually without charging interest. Just the opposite of a credit card, merchandise is held until it’s paid for in full. Do check the details for each purchase; terms may vary from store to store.

• Make a list and check it twice.  Making a list and sticking to it is an old and obvious idea but it really helps to control costs. Decide in advance who’s getting a gift and exactly how much you plan on spending. Don’t stray from the amounts or add people to the list later. Break the habit of holiday shopping sprees – no impulse purchases or splurges – just what’s on the list.

• Deck the halls with anything you can find in and around the house. There’s no need to spend money each year on more decorations – use the old ones or items grandma and grandpa no longer need.  Get creative; make it a family project to see how you can decorate with things you already have on hand. Scour your memory for old craft projects like the paper snowflakes you made as a kid.

Use photos as ornaments, make popcorn garlands or paint pinecones from the yard.

• Let it Snow – stay close to home. Avoid costly special events; limit travel and check out local no cost events like tree lighting ceremonies or community band concerts. Don’t accept every invitation for a special night out to celebrate the season and break your budget by feeling the need to keep up with everybody. Entertain simply at home; dinners can be potluck, progressive, or organized so family and friends each bring their homemade specialties to cover different parts of the meal.

• For Happy Holidays, when you do spend, spend wisely. Take advantage of the deals being offered to consumers in tough times. These are incentives to spend so chose wisely, but look for holiday specials at stores, restaurants and other venues. There are many opportunities to save such as buy one get one free, door buster specials, coupons for additional discounts, free shipping, or getting five $25 gift certificates for the price of four. Also “cash in” bonus points accumulated on some credit cards to buy gift cards, a no-cost way to fund holiday gift giving.

The Illinois CPA Society, founded in 1903, is the fifth largest state CPA Society in the nation, with more than 24,000 members. It is the premier professional organization that represents CPAs in Illinois. During its over 100 years of existence, the Society has advanced the highest ethical and financial standards of the profession, and has been a leader in educating the public on financial issues. Contact: Judi Kulm, Communications/Media Manager, Illinois CPA Society, +1-312-993-0407 ext. 251.
More great holiday gift-giving articles and ideas can be found in  our new Holiday Gift-giving Guide at http://bit.ly/1Z6LSF