According to Statistic Brain, Americans spend $52 billion dollars on holiday shopping, and on average, a shopper spends over $800 on presents. This doesn’t include party expenses, decorations, utility bills to power those decorations, and the cost of gas used to make all those extra trips to the store.

It is no surprise then that the Christmas season is when many people spend more than they can afford. It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday spirit and give generously to loved ones and charities. But as the holiday season winds down and 2016 approaches, we at Covenant Trust Company want to help you get back to saving and budgeting so you can financially start the new year off right.

Perhaps the easiest way to save is to pay yourself first. In other words, instead of saving what you have left after spending, spend what you have left after saving.

If your employer offers direct deposit, have part of your paycheck deposited directly to a savings account. If this is not an option, you should be able to set up a regular, automatic transfer of funds at your bank from your checking account to your savings account.

By saving first, you’ll avoid spending the money that you should be saving.

If you don’t already have a budget, make one for 2016. Remember, there is no one right way to budget. The most important thing is to use whatever system works for you so you’ll be able to stick with it. Just remember to be realistic and honest in your expectations: if you are too strict with your budget, you may be discouraged if you break your budget too often. But if you’re not strict enough, you may not benefit much from having a budget.

So set realistic goals and budget amounts; be honest, and decide what in your life is really a “need” and what is simply a “want.” Make a plan for giving and include tithing in your budget. And perhaps most importantly, be patient and make adjustments as necessary. Results take time, especially if you haven’t had a budget before, and you may find that you need to regularly tweak your budget before you have one that works for you.

Saving and budgeting go hand in hand: a proper budget will help you maximize the amount you can save and give every month. And if you save and budget throughout the year, you may find that the holiday season is suddenly much more affordable.

Covenant Trust Company is a financial services company owned by the Evangelical Covenant Church and its affiliates. Our services are available to anyone in need of asset management, retirement planning, legacy planning, gift planning, or trust services. In addition, we seek opportunities to encourage and promote healthy financial habits; read more on our personal finance blog: www.covtrustblog.com.

 

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