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Have You Set Your Holiday Budget?

The catalogs, the catalogs! My mailbox has suddenly in the last few days been invaded by the seasonal army of festive holiday magazines, all suggesting that if I only spend $199 (each!) for those themed placemats, my dining room table will be shown off in all its glory just like the one in the picture. The only problem is, what the marketing people at that company don’t know, is that my dining room table has knife and fork marks all over it, and probably a few drops of blood from the kids! So we’ll probably be looking for a full-size table cloth instead. 

But wait, there’s more! There are inflatable reindeer for the yard, hood ornaments for the car, and yes, even a Santa riding a trout oil painting that some catalog thought was appropriate to place next to the Thomas Kinkaid castle paintings. 

All of these catalogs tell me that we are soon to be invaded by as much stuff as we can collectively buy for everyone on our Christmas lists.

Now don’t think for once that I’m not excited about all of this. The consumer version of Christmas is one of my favorite pastimes. Despite the traffic, people honking and shaking their fists over parking spaces, everywhere you go, there’s Christmas music playing, skinny and larger-than-life Santas ringing bells and standing next to red kettles. Overall it seems like most people you run into are just a little more full of cheer during the Christmas season. 

It’s also a wonderful time in my family. Even my older boys still get that glimmer in their eyes as they look through one catalog or another or walk through stores to find that perfect gift, and smile.

But back to kids and finding joy in their eyes at the perfect gift (and one that fits in Dad’s budget!) — well, that’s something you never forget. But let’s not get caught up in just the consumerism. This time of year is also a chance to visit with long-lost friends. Or perhaps you host out-of-town family as they come to town for Christmas. It’s a wonderful time to catch up, whether over a hot toddy or a warm mug of spiced cider. 

Christmas for some can also bring a good deal of stress or tension, with the pressure of all these things people don’t typically do during the rest of the year. Within our client families, I see spouses who like to spend feel like they have the green light to part with lots of money. Then, the spouses who don’t like to spend feel like their spouse isn’t respecting them and the family budget. In nearly every family, there’s a variation of this. 

So before you get into the Christmas season, I strongly encourage you to have a conversation with your significant other about what your family plan is for Christmas. Set your holiday budget for each other, for the kids, and even for extended family and office secret Santas. If you’re traveling, set a budget for that as well. 

There’s no time like the present to agree on what your budget will be as the consumer side of Christmas bombards us from all sides. Just remember, you’ve been warned — like Paul Revere said, the catalogs are coming! The catalogs are coming! Well, something like that anyway. 

Article by David Smyth, Senior Partner at Family Financial Partners — a financial services firm in Lexington, Kentucky.

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