How a Budget Can Make or Break Your Holiday (and Your Future)

By Alex Fishman

The end of the holiday season may not seem like the right time to talk about your finances. But how you manage your holiday expenses this year can be a window into how you manage your overall financial plan.

Like inflation, holiday spending often increases from year to year. Tack that additional bill onto routine monthly expenses and the extra costs that always come at year-end (such as property taxes), and your finances could have a shaky start next year.

Track This Year's Holiday Spending

Even if you don't usually budget for the holidays, start tracking your spending while it's still fresh in your mind. As you wrap up your purchases, the extra oversight might help you avoid loading up credit cards or dipping into your savings.

When you're done with your gift giving, entertaining and holiday-related traveling, take the time to record and evaluate your spending, even if it's just an estimate. Was it too much? Will it affect any planned purchases or regular expenses next year? How about your existing saving and investing plan—would you have done anything differently?

Then, consider how a budget—for next year’s holidays and your overall finances—might give you a different perspective on spending.

Budget = Financial Control

Budgeting is the foundation for financial planning. It's the primary way you can affect your own financial success. You can't control the financial markets, but you do control how much you spend, and how much you save.

Each dollar you save today has the chance to grow and compound over time. We're not suggesting canceling your gift-giving traditions! A gift here and there won't make much of a difference, just like daily fluctuations in the financial markets won't ruin your future.

But your total spending and saving patterns will set you up for financial success—or financial stress.

How a Budget Supports Your Financial Goals

First, it's important to know what you're budgeting for—short-term goals like holiday spending or far-off goals like retirement or college. Our Future Value Calculator can help you determine how much to set aside for a long-term goal, and our other retirement tools  dive into more specifics as you approach retirement.

1. Budget

Armed with a clear vision of your goals and an estimate of the amount you'll need, examine your everyday finances.

  • List your sources of income, and subtract basic living expenses and debt payments.
  • Compare what's left with the amount you've calculated for your goals.
  • Evaluate how much you want to use for discretionary spending versus saving it for your future.

2. Save

We generally believe clients should have three to six months' worth of emergency savings in a bank account or other relatively low-risk account. There are a number of ways to boost your emergency fund.

  • Take steps to curb spending on nonessentials.
  • Switch to cash for certain expenses to avoid the temptation of credit cards.
  • Pay off debt to ensure more of your money goes to you rather than interest payments.

3. Invest

Investing, rather than saving, has the potential to grow your money over time, at a greater rate than a bank savings account. But it also involves the risk that your investments will decrease in value during market fluctuations.

  • Take advantage of your employer's retirement plan, including any matching contributions.
  • Consider automatic investments in other accounts. Small amounts each month can add up during your lifetime.
  • Consult a trusted financial advisor to find the right investment options for your goals, time frame and tolerance for risk.

This Year, Give Yourself the Gift of a Budget

Need help getting started? Contact us, or find out more about investing for any goal.

For more in-depth portfolio reviews and wealth management services, our Private Client Group offers exclusive access to customized advice and a dedicated service team.

Alex Fishman
Alex Fishman

Give Yourself the Gift of a Budget

We can help you get started. Contact us to find out more about budgeting and investing for any goal.

1-800-345-2021
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