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Wise Holiday Spending

With the holiday season upon us, it’s important to remember to reduce holiday stress and the after-holiday bills by developing a budget for gift giving, food and entertainment expenses.

According to the National Retail Federation, in 2011 the average shopper will spend $704.18 on holiday gifts, food and decorations.  This year’s spending forecasts have declined from recent years and indicate a shift toward value and self-gifting (buying gifts for yourself). Stores are increasingly aware of the need to entice shoppers, so consumers can expect extended discounts and sales, perks and responsive customer service.

The best strategy is to start by planning your gift-giving in advance. Planning gives you time to shop for the perfect gift at the right price, and to search for the best sales. Make a list of all friends and family members for whom you normally purchase gifts. Talk with family members and set a spending limit for gifts, as this helps everyone budget and shop effectively. Before heading out to do your holiday shopping, estimate the dollar amount you will spend on each individual and exert self-control while shopping to stay within your spending limits.

You may also want to consider developing a new tradition with friends and family. Instead of giving gifts, consider a nice dinner out where each individual is responsible for his/her bill. Instead of traditional gift giving, consider a gift swap, where you pick names out of a hat and purchase small, thoughtful gifts for that person.

Also remember to factor in holiday entertaining costs. Sometimes on family member ends up bearing the burden of purchasing food and drinks for entertaining year after year. Instead, consider having a pot-luck dinner with family and, in addition to spreading out costs, be sure everyone participates equitably in shopping, preparation and clean up.

While shopping, keep in mind that you are less likely to overspend if you pay with cash, as opposed to using credit cards. A credit card is very convenient, but because there are no immediate consequences for using it, you are more likely to overspend. If you are using cash, once all of your cash is gone, you are finished with your holiday shopping. Therefore, spending cash makes you mush less likely to overspend. Layaway is another option that can help you avoid using a credit card. If you decide to use a store’s layaway option, check the return policy and keep track of all payments.

Finally, it is never too early to start planning for next year’s holiday season. Take advantage of after-holiday sales and discounts to do some early holiday shopping for next season. Also consider opening a holiday savings club account at your local bank. You can contribute a small amount every month to the account and then you will have the cash ready to shop with next year.

Preparing for Young Visitors

Keep young holiday visitors safe by taking steps to prepare your home before they arrive:
• If your home is not already “childproofed,” install Tamper Resistant Receptacles or use safety covers on all unused electrical outlets, including those on extension cords.
• Store breakables, candles, matches, and other potentially dangerous items, such as household and personal care products, medicines, vitamins, and pesticides, in inaccessible or locked areas.
• Don’t forget to put away small items, like buttons, coins, and jewelry, which are a choking hazard.
• Use safety gates at the top and bottom stairways to keep babies and toddlers safe.
• Consider turning your water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the risk of scalding.
• Do not use space heaters in rooms where children will be unsupervised.
• Adult supervision is required in the kitchen when something is cooking or when a range or stove is within reach.
• Keep children at least three feet away from cooking appliances.
• Decorations are not toys. Never allow children to play with electrical decorations or cords. Place cord out of reach.
• Avoid putting Christmas tree lights, ornaments, metal hooks, and other small decorations near the ground or in the lower limbs where they may be reached by young children.
• In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable.
• Keep matches, lighters, and candle displays out of reach of children.

For more information, contact the Butler County Extension Office at 112 East G L Smith Street, Morgantown or call 526-3767.  Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin. 

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