Responsible financial planning can make a merrier Christmas season
NASHVILLE — Headed into the 2020 holiday shopping season, many Tennesseans may feel uncertainty about celebrating this year with gifts and presents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some may have credit issues or especially tight year-end budgets.
To help consumers, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Regulatory Boards remind Tennesseans that today’s responsible financial choices can create a merry Christmas season in December.
“As we approach the 2020 holiday season, our Regulatory Boards team remains focused on assisting licensees and consumers,” said Assistant Commissioner Toby Compton. “As part of our mission, we remind consumers that sticking to a financial plan this year can help make a brighter 2021 when the bills come due.”
TDCI oversees the licensure of credit and debt collection professionals through the Collection Service Board, Debt Management Program and the Credit Services Business registration program.
To assist consumers, the following tips could save consumers money this year and into 2021. Remember:
- Create a written budget and stick to it. Make a budget and stick to it. Ask yourself questions about how you spend money and then prioritize your spending. Who do you want to buy for? How much can you afford to spend? Will you have extra food costs? Will you have travel expenses? Remember: $1,000 charged to a credit card for holiday gifts and paid back at the minimum payment could end up costing you $1,800 or more.
- Be aware that you may not be the only one financially struggling. Instead of buying numerous individuals gifts, consider a family gift or participate in a gift exchange. Family members can draw names and buy a gift for that specific person so that everyone receives something during a socially distanced holiday celebration. In addition, agree to a predetermined price limit on those gifts to ensure everyone stays within their means.
- Give experiences instead of gifts. Build memories by spending time with family such as children and grandchildren instead of giving gifts. Give coupons for a camping trip, a hike or a day at the zoo or museum. For the adult family members, consider offering to cook a favorite meal, to clean their home or to watch the kids so they can enjoy a night out.
- Take advantage of shopper rewards programs where you regularly shop and load digital coupons or cut paper coupons for savings. Many retailers also run special offers that allow for rewards such as free food items, gift cards or discounts on other necessities like fuel. These discounts could easily save you $10-$20 per week on average.
- Make the holiday meal at home instead of dining out or catering. By cooking at home, you can keep more money in your pocketbook. Consider hosting a potluck and asking everyone to bring their favorite dish or specialty in order to share the expense while having a big holiday meal.
- Find ways to help those in need by giving your time. The holiday season can be especially hard for those in need. Consider volunteering at a local shelter, soup kitchen or other charitable organization. The gift of your time will go a long way in making the holiday season a little brighter for someone less fortunate.
- Create new family traditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyday life for all Americans. By adapting to the conditions, you could create an opportunity to begin new traditions that focus on family and friends, not spending money.
- Do not be embarrassed or upset by what you do not have. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people across the globe. If you don’t feel comfortable giving gifts this year, practice gratitude and acknowledge what you do have. Volunteer and give back to your community. Helping others, even in a small way, can make your day and theirs!
- Track all your holiday expenditures this year. After you make a budget, build this amount into your budget for next year. To prepare for next year, open a savings account and make a monthly deposit of 10% of your budget in order to plan for next year’s holiday.