What’s a Winter Financial Checkup, you ask?
Winter, and more specifically, the time around the holidays is when most people have the most problems with their finances. Gift purchases throw off their budgets. Bonuses give them a unexpected bit of cash and they spend more than they expected.
Whatever the case may be, your financial picture might end up looking more like a Picasso than a portrait of your true financial life. And your budget might be way off. It happens.
The holiday season is one of the hardest to budget for. Between all the gifts and trips that we all buy and make, it’s easy to lose track of where some of our money went or to over spend in a few categories. But, keeping tabs on our budget is also one of the most important things we can do during the holiday season.
Performing a Winter Financial Checkup
A winter financial checkup isn’t really as special as I’ve made it sound. It’s mostly just your regular budgeting session but with some special attention spent on predicting some of the extra expenditures. And if you’re lucky enough, some extra incomes as well.
You’ll want to ask yourself, first, if you’re expecting any extra income. Usually, this means a yearly bonus or a Christmas bonus. If you are, now is a great time to plan for that extra income and budget it in. Extra income is exactly that. Extra. It’s unplanned for up until now. If you are still paying off your debt, I suggest you plan on using at least 50% of any expected bonus for debt repayment. You’ll have some pangs of regret for things you could have bought, but in the long run, you’ll thank yourself. The other 50% should go towards your gift purchases and towards any traveling that you are planning.
You’ll also want to take the time to truly plan your gift giving. It’s a part of holding yourself to a budget. I guarantee that if you walk into a store to buy gifts without a list or a set spending limit on each person, you will overspend. Everybody does it. It’s the spirit of the season. Generosity is in the air, but you can still be generous without breaking your budget. Make a list of all the people you intend to buy gifts for. If you have any ideas for them, make sure you add those to the list. Now, beside each name, write down the amount that you will spend on that person’s gift. They don’t all have to be the same. Your sister might like her $25 scrap-booking kit just as much as your brother likes his $50 tackle box. It’s the thought that counts. And if they do care, then you spent more on them than they deserve.
The main reason for a winter financial checkup is to keep control. That’s what a budget is all about and that’s what will keep your spending in line and your debt shrinking. Take the time the next time you check your finances to do a little bit extra and give yourself a winter financial checkup.