So, we just passed Veteran’s Day. This means we are nourishing a sense of humility and gratitude for our servicemen & women. It also means, however, that we’ve gotten through Halloween and for certain of us survived the deluge of sugary calories and the hordes of trick-or-treaters. It also means that many of us have paid our property taxes, that Thanksgiving is two weeks away, and that Christmas right there on our doorstep. The season of heavy spending, socializing, and sententiousness is now upon us.
With that mind, we offer some thoughts to consider:
- Regardless of your income or net worth, if you have not done so already, set a budget for holiday spending. It may be useful to further break it down into sub-categories such as Gifts, Entertaining, or Food. Many people tend to think there is little to be gained from this investment of time and thought, but we encourage everyone to do it anyway.
The vast majority of households spend a disproportionately large amount of their resources in the last three months of the year, and we find most folks, when they really look at their holiday spending carefully, are astonished at how much is spent on things which produce relatively little enjoyment. The classic example of this is, in the search of volume over quality, the purchase of many holiday presents that are never actually used.
- At the same time, take the last few months of the year to reassess your charitable giving attitude and strategy. Two good ways to frame this. First, look to see if there are opportunities for you to support a worthy cause during the holiday season (perhaps with some of the cash you saved by not buying everyone in the office an expensive box of petit fours). And two, review your cash flow and household budget for the current year and run a rough projection for what you believe will be the case for the following calendar year. Then make some decisions on whether you can or should increase or decrease your monthly giving starting in January.
Of course, also consider recipients of those funds. Does their mission still align with your values? Is the business being managed properly? Has their financial status improved to the point that your gifts might be more powerfully deployed elsewhere? As this matter is one which affects one’s taxable income, it is a process which might involve a financial planner and a qualified tax adviser. And always remember that you can combine things by making a donation to a charity as a gift.
- Put things in perspective, both the tangible and intangible. The countable and the uncountable. The holidays can be tough psychologically and emotionally for many, often for no better reason than the burden of human expectations and, for lack of a better term, seasonal anxiety. But consider: if the purpose of Thanksgiving is, for example, to foster gratitude for one’s family, community, material blessings, health, and so forth… why permit stress arising from meal and travel arrangements, or your crazy uncle, or whatever the case to ruin the family meal? Personally, I’d be willing to pay good money to NOT feel stress. The reality of it is though that many of us pay good money and feel extra stress as a result. Not terrific planning.
Bottom line: this year, take an hour or two to intelligently organize your spending plans and financial values, spend less on frivolous things, and look for and better appreciate the good stuff. Relax, say a prayer, and enjoy.