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NEWS | Nov. 13, 2013

Financial tips for the holidays

By Senior Airman Brittany Paerschke-O'Brien 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Busier stores, bustling streets and colorful decorations-- the tell-tale signs that the holidays are around the corner. The festive atmosphere fosters the spirit of giving, but also reminds shoppers of the importance of fiscal responsibility throughout the year.

It can be easy to overspend during the holidays, creating a major financial issue for the new year. According to the American Research Group, the average shopper spends approximately $1,000 during the holiday season.

Maureen Waldrop-Elam, Langley Air Force Base Airman and Family Readiness Center personal financial management specialist, and Paul Walker, Fort Eustis Army Community Service financial readiness program manager, provide classes on how to prepare and recover from holiday spending.

Waldrop-Elam said the best way to avoid overspending is to create a budget and stick to it. By creating a list or using a holiday gift smartphone app, shoppers can manage spending and follow their budget. It is important to create a budget to ensure funds are allocated properly.

Shoppers often overlook smaller-ticket items, but it is important to include them in the budget, as costs can accumulate quickly, Waldrop-Elam explained. She recommends gift buyers plan ahead for holiday expenses, such as travel, decorations and gifts to ensure financial stability.

"Savings should be automatic and uninterrupted during the holiday season," said Walker. "Limit the use of credit, set spending limits or use cash."

Waldrop-Elam said shoppers with a smaller budget should consider giving home-made gifts as an alternative.

"If you have a large family, doing 'Secret Santa' or drawing names from a hat can be a better option," said Waldrop-Elam.

A inexpensive alternative to buying a gift is donating time, said Waldrop-Elam. If a loved one supports a charity or organization, volunteering in their name is a cost-effective option.

"Time is money, and your time is a gift," said Waldrop-Elam. "If you are willing to give time to help an organization, that shows you care, which is what the holidays are about."

Waldrop-Elam said shoppers can avoid the hassle and hustle of last-minute shopping by taking advantage of layaway programs.

"Layaway is a wonderful option for individuals to spread spending over an extended period of time," said Waldrop-Elam. "The Exchange offers layaway, and it is an excellent resource for those who need it."

Layaway also allows shoppers to save for big-ticket items.

Waldrop-Elam recommends setting aside money from each pay period throughout the year to alleviate credit card debt resulting from holiday spending. If using a credit card is necessary, have a plan to pay off the debt in less than three months.

"Being aware of your financial situation through the whole year is key so that the holidays are not a surprise," said Waldrop-Elam.

For more information or to register for a financial class, call AFRC at 764-3990 or ACS at 803-3638.