The holidays are always an exciting time in the Philippines. We are probably one of the very few countries around the world that celebrates as early as Sept. 1 with Jose Mari Chan already singing Christmas songs on the radio, and put up decorations and lights right after All Saints’ Day.
While all these can warm the heart, you do not want to set fire on your wallet with all the untracked spending. Many adults wake up in January with a financial hangover that lingers for months, or worse until the next Christmas if they signed up for 120-month layaway plans.
And we are not alone – despite the 3 month-long festivities. The US National Retail Federation reported they expect holiday retail sales to rise to a record $730 billion (that’s trillions in pesos!). Before you think Americans can afford it, CNBC News said people suffer the dreaded holiday spending hangover for months too. On average, Americans rack up more than $1,000 in holiday debt (equivalent to around P51,000) and less than half can pay for it in 3 months. Many admitted they need at least 5 months to put all their holiday overspending behind them.
Spare yourself from this dreadful hangover with these simple tips. Make it up by following the no spend challenge in various social media sites. Some offer a money tip daily for the whole month, guaranteed to set you on the path of money mindfulness. And from here, who knows? Riches could follow.
#1 Stop eyeing your bonus.
I know many people who start spending their bonus even before it’s paid out. They already buy something and plan to pay for it when the bonus comes. Or they take out a loan and promise to pay as soon as their bonus hits their account.
Remember the saying do not count your chickens before they are hatched? Same life lesson applies here. A bonus means just that – a bonus that may not be paid to you for many reasons. Maybe your company is not doing as well as you thought. Or they will still pay but not on the month you expected. Until you have the hard cold cash, consider it not yours.
#2 Limit yourself with a budget.
Making a budget is usually on the list of things people do not like to do. Maybe you would rather be watching Netflix, hanging out with friends, driving out of town, even checking social media feeds. Anything but planning a budget.
But no one who has ever taken time to make a budget, and stuck to it, ever complained about overspending. A budget will help you decide just how much money you can spend (and it should not be your entire bonus please) and then make a strategy to follow it. This could mean keeping your mobile phone for a while longer (no need to upgrade as soon as a new model is out), avoiding bazaars (where you buy wants not needs) or not giving as many gifts as you would have liked. Consider giving group gifts instead of individual ones, or donating to a charity instead and writing everyone that you made a contribution in their name in the spirit of the season.
#3 Another neat trick: spend your holiday budget as cash.
There is nothing more painful for someone who worked hard for her or his salary to part with it. As you count the bills to pay for something, the reality of spending makes it harder for you to go through with getting things you don’t really need, like another streaming subscription plan.
If you use credit cards instead of cash, you could get confused with all the pay three months later plans and other promotions designed to make you spend more than you can afford. In this case, cash is your friend. Keep it as long as you can so you don’t get lonely and welcome the New Year with empty pockets.
#4 Sign up for a support group.
With #NoSpendNovember or even just #NoSpend challenge, you will discover many people offering tips on how to cut back. They share news on sales too, and if these are for items you really need to buy, go ahead and take advantage.
I like that they also give advice on how to earn back with every spend. While in New York, I discovered an App called Seated. I earn rewards for dining at restaurants and they pay me back with spending credits for Amazon, Sephora, even Uber. If eating out is in your list to do anyway with friends, go ahead and take advantage.
Plus they give advice on what not to do, like upgrade to a new tablet with a turn-in promotion. Some of them have been burned and want to make sure no one else gets the same bad deal. That generosity is just the spirit you need this spending season.
#5 Pay it forward for this year and the next.
Don’t let all these good vibes stay with you. If you end up with a little savings in your spending budget, share it with non-profits working to give families with a lot less a Noche Buena meal. World Vision accepts donations as little as P1,000 to support two children from two families and treat them with a holiday meal.
With the recent earthquake that hit Mindanao, many communities were displaced and they need help urgently. You could also donate through World Vision and with many other charities committed to aiding the survivors.
Or simply share the lessons your budget-wiser self has learned. That could only change someone’s wallet for the better.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.