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Samuel Freshman and Heidi Clingen: Be smart at holidays and enjoy New Year’s

Smarties

Posted: December 23, 2010 9:14 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

During the holiday season, the temptation often is to let budgets and financial goals slide. The festivities and so many gifts to buy are a great excuse.

Remember, however, the new year is just a week away. Along with it comes a potential credit crunch as bills arrive in the mail.

Your New Year’s resolution may become a simple “save more and spend less.” Look at the new year as a fresh start to “get it right” with your savings account.

Here are some easy ways to prepare, in the midst of the holidays, for your New Year’s resolution:

* Find inexpensive ways to enjoy the rest of the season. Make it a family game to find ways to have holiday fun for less.

The Santa Clarita Valley is filled with homes beautifully lit for the holidays. That fills one festive evening with the family. Help at the Santa Clarita Valley Emergency Winter Shelter or the SCV Food Pantry. This is a wonderful way to celebrate the season of giving.

* If you have children at home and they are out of school, put them to work. They can earn their allowance or extra spending money helping you with holiday tasks and preparing the house for guests or for the winter weather.

Next month, here are some ways to make your New Year’s resolution stick all year long:

* Start small, with a mini-resolution. Save an easy amount the first month. Don’t set yourself up for discouragement. Get a taste of success. Build on it. Start bragging about it. If you need motivation, give yourself a small (inexpensive) reward for meeting your goal. Set a slightly larger goal and repeat the process. Do this all year long.

* Hold each other accountable. If you need to, ask a friend to encourage you. Give each other a call at the beginning of each month to ask if you each met your savings goal for the prior month.

* Sit down with yourself or your partner for a budget meeting. Figure out your income and outflow. Write it down. If you don’t want to call it a budget, you can call it a spending log or money diary. At your meeting, discuss how to:

* Save some of that inflow in a safe place. Box it, freeze it, or hide it, but don’t dip into it. Label it as the “Vacation Fund,” the “New Car Fund” or the “Night Out Fund.”

* Visualize what that inflow can become. Put a photo of Tahiti or a sports car on your refrigerator.

* Trim some of that outflow. Analyze your bills and credit card statements. What can be cut back? What can be eliminated? Call your monthly service providers and let them know that you are considering canceling or switching and can they give you better deal.

* Set up a quarterly budget meeting at the beginning of April, July and October to make necessary adjustments to your plan.

We hope you enjoy your holidays this week.

We believe you will enjoy them even more if you keep 2011 in mind. Keep your head on straight about your finances and you will thank yourself all throughout the New Year.

Happy holidays, everyone. ~ Heidi and Sam

Heidi Clingen is a long-time resident of Stevenson Ranch. She and Samuel K. Freshman are authors of “The Smartest Way™ to Save: Why You Can’t Hang on to Money and What to Do About It.”
They offer only their opinion, which does not constitute professional, financial or legal advice. To receive a copy of The Principles of Financial Independence or submit questions, e-mail them at Heidi@TheSmartestWay.com.

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