An article on “Black Friday Myths” (LivingontheCheap.com) caught my eye and reminded me it is once again time to think about buying gifts. The Financial Advisor in me focuses not on the gifts but on the family budget.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has traditionally been the kick off for Christmas shopping, and stores try to bring in the crowds with ultra-low prices. But deals are beginning November 17 at Amazon, and 70% of Black Friday special pricing is also available online. Many stores are matching competitors’ prices. Toys, HDTVs, and winter clothing are often cheapest right before Christmas.
But wait! Before you start buying stuff, you have to come up with a budget, because overspending at Christmas can put you in a hole for the entire following year. My suggestion is to do your shopping budget two ways. From the top down – figure out the total amount you can afford to spend on all gifts. And from the bottom up – list the gifts and the cost for each person on your Christmas list. Now compare the two lists and come up with a realistic figure that will satisfy your friends and remain friendly to your budget. You should set aside enough money for Christmas gifts so that you can pay for them in full by the end of December.
You do not need to spend a lot of money to buy a “good gift.” Things you make yourself are often the best gifts – parents, just look at the drawings your kids make that are on your refrigerator. If we look deep enough, we all have some talent that can result in a gift. For me, it is a photo book, memories that will last a lifetime.
If you are part of a large family, have a drawing so you select just one member to buy a gift for. I like the idea of gifting a skill – give a cooking class rather than a fruitcake.
The best investment in an investment in education. So, make a gift of learning. I always buy a book for each of my kids and grandkids. Crowd funding is a new phrase – it means many people contribute to someone’s education through a website. One high school senior has asked for college donations instead of Christmas gifts – great idea.
I have a Little Brother from the Big Brother/Big Sister’s non-profit, and I’m not supposed to spend a lot of money on gifts. Last year for Christmas I made a donation in his name to Heifer International. We bought a part of a water buffalo for a family in South East Asia. He is very proud of his gift, and happy that he can help other people.
If you put your mind to it, you can come up with some great gift ideas that will not break the family budget.