Remember Your Long-Term Financial Goals this Holiday Season

The holiday season is in full swing. People are shopping, spending, preparing, traveling and visiting. The holidays bring a feeling into the air that warms the heart and bring family and friends closer. During this time while hearts are full of love and feeling a great sense of giving, it is vital that we keep our minds focused on the long term – building savings, managing debt, and giving more of our time and talents to your family or a good cause.

goingshoppingThis year we have some lingering issues that reveal a reality we all must face — the economy is weak, our savings are depleted, debt is mounting, unemployment lingers, and ‘occupy’ movements are taking place all over the world. With this backdrop, will Americans be more responsible this Christmas and not spend beyond our means? With Black Friday shopping results showing strong spending, particularly among the poor and middle class, it is unclear if pocketbooks are tightening or if we have just given into the pressure of this “feel good” time of year and splurging.

It’s always easier said than done, but keeping a few simple ideas in mind as you go about your holiday shopping this year can go a long way to preparing you for financial freedom. Rather than living in the moment, think ahead and plan for the future. Following this advice will not only benefit your pocketbook, but it will help teach those around you some great habits and leave you feeling phenomenal when the season is over. Imagine a lingering feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment after the holiday instead of feeling despair and burden. It takes just a few easy adjustments:

1. Matching Gifts, Dollar for Dollar. Consider this while shopping this year: for every dollar you spend on gifts for your children or yourself, match that dollar by depositing it into a college fund or savings account. If you are buying something and can’t afford to match the deposit into savings, you need to leave it at the store! So, if you decide to buy your child a $200 tablet, make sure to also deposit $200 dollars into their college fund. You will not regret doing this. It may mean a few less gadgets under the tree for the kids, but it also means money in the bank for their future. What is more important? Don’t go broke buying material gifts with no future value. The best gift you can give is an investment in your child’s and your own future by growing your savings account. Try this matching technique for everything you plan to buy and you will find yourself having a greater consciousness of your spending and with a lot more in savings when the New Year rolls around.

2. Charitable Giving. Over the past few years, many non-profit organizations have seen their budgets significantly slashed. Is there a charity or cause that you have a lot of passion about? This Christmas, consider putting a significant portion of what you would spend on material items into the hands of non-profits, churches, schools or other groups to support a good cause. Not only are you doing something that really matters, but you are also being financially responsible, creating a potential tax deduction for yourself and putting your money into a cause that will help others and build into the future.

3. Volunteering. You may not be in a position to donate money to a charity or cause, but one thing you can always afford is to give of your time and talents. This Christmas season is all about giving, and the true spirit of this time of year is more about giving of ones self than it is about giving material gifts. Take a day or a weekend to visit a homeless shelter, nursing home, children’s cancer center or group home. Read books to children, hold a cancer patient’s hand, or feed a family. You are needed in the community, and giving of your time in this way is the ultimate gift. Could you spend as many hours visiting a shelter as you do in the mall? Consider doing that and you will feel a significant difference and level of satisfaction when the season ends.

You have heard all of this before. This year we have big reasons to put it all into action. It’s time we get back to the basics, and stop dumping our precious resources into toys, gadgets and worthless material things that do nothing to improve our financial position or our family’s financial health. Changing behavior to focus on saving, giving and volunteering our time will be a small step toward amazing change in our lives. Teaching our children that the holidays are about giving of our time and talent and preparing for the future is the absolutely the most phenomenal treasure you can leave. Give these awesome gifts and you are guaranteed to have an amazing holiday season!

Happy Holidays to you and your family.

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