Plan on generosity in 2014

Christmas 2013 has come and gone, yet I’ll live with an almost daily reminder of the holiday season until my credit card is paid off. If you spent the nationwide average of $800 this year and put it all on plastic, you’ll gain a new understanding of “Christmas in July” when you’re still looking at a balance this summer.  And as  I start planning my annual budget for 2014, I’m trying to save for gifts and donations to avoid debt and stress throughout the holidays.

slm_holiday_tistheseason_recieveAfter all, I’m a giver at heart. I can’t say no when I find the perfect present for a friend (no matter the cost!) and I’ll always sign up to bring a dish to an office-wide potluck. But oftentimes my wallet isn’t as big as my heart and I’m torn between giving and other financial obligations.

No more. I’m starting a “giving account” in 2014. I plan to set aside a small portion of my monthly income to a fund that I’ll draw from whenever I’m called upon to give. Whether it’s a birthday present for a friend, making cookies for a bake sale or bringing home a special treat for my roommate, I’ll be prepared and I won’t stress. Here’s how you can give generously and stress-free, too:

  1. Go through your calendar and mark holidays, birthdays and special occasions. Try to set a dollar figure for the type of gift you’re likely to give each person throughout the year.
  2. Add a little extra for unexpected giving — from small items, like ingredients for a charity bake sale and hostess gifts to more expensive wedding presents. Try to estimate what you’ll be involved in throughout the year.
  3. Once you’ve landed on an annual giving budget from Steps 1 & 2, divide that number by 12. That’s how much you’ll need to save each month.
  4. Keep track of your “giving account” in a way that makes sense for you — like setting up a separate account or keeping it in cash. As you spend on gifts throughout the year, take note of what the gift was for and how much you spent so you can better estimate your expenses next year.
  5. By December, you should have most of your fund available for Christmas shopping. Leftover funds can be used to make gifts extra special (splurge on wrappings — or make them yourself!), saved for the following year or donated to your favorite cause.

Saving for a rainy day is important, but oh-so-boring. Saving to put a smile on someone’s face? Now you’re being fun and responsible.



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