Tag Archives: holiday budget

Controlling Your Finances Without Letting Them Control You

2017_21 Days_Financial_Fitness_blog

The new year is here! You may feel a sense of calm and relief now that the holidays are over and you can get back into your regular routine. But perhaps your holiday spending wasn’t ideal, and you need to get back on track financially. Don’t worry! While it may take some work, fixing your finances post-holiday season isn’t an insurmountable task. “Improvement” doesn’t equal drastic changes; it could be a few small steps to help relieve some financial stress. Remembering this can help you stay on track during the process and keep your current financial situation from affecting how you see your value as a person.

People who connect their personal value with their financial state may consider a threat to their finances a huge stressor and threat to their self-worth, according to a study by Dr. Lora Park of the University of Buffalo. You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Achieving your definition of financial stability is important, but it won’t make other life stresses and issues disappear. A recent study by Dr. Matthew Monnot of the University of San Francisco found that human connections contribute to happiness more than money and that tying personal worth to extrinsic or external entities such as wealth can cause less satisfaction in life. A focus on intrinsic or internal needs like relationships and community can more positively impact well-being. So, while working on your relationship with your finances, work on your relationships with friends and family, too.

As you try to improve your finances after holiday spending, here are some tips from Every Sailor, Every Day campaign contributor and financial expert, Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte:

  • Be proactive about understanding your spending and how to recover. Look through receipts and other records of transactions to see what you spent, make sure your statements are accurate, and then figure out how your budget needs to change so you can recover financially, get your savings in check, and avoid additional debt. If budgeting isn’t your area of expertise, Military OneSource and MilitarySaves can help!
  • Figure out the financial balance that’s right for you. Making sure bills are paid each month and saving money for the future are important, but having some of your hard-earned money set aside for the fun stuff is good, too. When working on your budget, make reasonable room for all three. Having everything categorized can help you be prepared if unexpected expenses pop up. And don’t forget that the Blended Retirement System (BRS) is available as of January 1, 2018. If eligible and opting into BRS, consider how it may affect your finances.
  • Think ahead and look for bargains. The holiday season isn’t the only time you may find yourself buying gifts. Plan ahead for birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations by setting reminders a month in advance so you don’t scramble at the last minute to find a gift you hadn’t budgeted for. Also consider your relationship with the recipient, and think of non-monetary gifts that may be more meaningful. Incorporate ways to save in all of your shopping. Compare prices, use coupons, and take other steps to save on gas, groceries and other daily needs.

Following these steps and others that work for you can put you on the right track to getting your finances closer to where you want them to be.  Recovering financially after the holidays is a process, but dedication and the right mindset make it minimally stressful. Creating and maintaining a budget, determining what financial security is for you, saving daily, and realizing that money doesn’t determine your worth are key steps to making the improvements you want to see in 2018.

The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season, Part 3

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

Now that we have determined what is most important to us this season in part121221-N-IN807-471 one of this series, and have adapted a budget-friendly means to gift giving in part two, it’s time to focus on how to celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank. Family gatherings are often the most anticipated events of the holiday season and expenses can quickly add up for both the travelling and host families. Late planning and missed holiday promotion opportunities can easily turn into very costly last-minute trips amidst swarming holiday shoppers. To keep spending and stress levels down, try these tips using the 80/20 rule:

  • In addition to searching for the best travel fares and booking in advance, keep in mind that you may not be able to visit everyone on your list. Decide what is in your budget, and which trip will be the most meaningful. Overspending to please everyone may result in detectable tension, fatigue, and financial strain.
  • If you are hosting a gathering, ask others to help out by contributing to the event. This can be in the form of a dish, drinks, cash, etc. Holiday meal planning costs can be kept reasonable by utilizing wholesale membership buying programs and using coupons. When everyone contributes to the process, there is a greater sense of community, which is what the holiday season is all about.
  • Choose inexpensive and free events that visiting family can enjoy. Base holiday concerts and activities and city/town lighting events are just a few ways to engage in cheap or free holiday fun. When your loved ones look back on these moments, the important thing will be the meaningful time spent together, not the amount of money it took to make it happen.

If you decide to opt-out of this year’s family reunion, perhaps your family can use this time to volunteer to serve others. Look for local events and activities where your family can contribute (local feeding events for the less fortunate, sponsor a service member for a holiday meal, etc.). Bringing joy to others is a gift that both the giver and recipient will relish.

Whether you’ll be spending the holidays in the company of family and friends, or through long distance communications during deployment, remember, you get the most value from nurturing your relationships with those important to you—not from stretching your financial limits. By considering what’s most meaningful, you’ll stay in control of your budget and “keep an even keel” this holiday season.

The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season, Part 2

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

In the first part of our series, we talked about gauging where our focus is this 141002-N-VY375-046holiday season, with a goal of 80% on personal relationships, and 20% on material spending. Now, we can tackle gift-giving without breaking the bank.

How do you shift your holiday gifting goals and priorities to a mostly non-material state? The answer is to reserve some time to explore simple and inexpensive creative ideas. Here are just a few:

  •  Homemade greeting cards: Use cardstock, markers and design a pattern as simple or elaborate as you desire. Add mementos or a family photo for more personalization and meaning.
  • Thoughtful keepsakes: Ornaments are a meaningful token of the holidays that can help us feel connected with loved ones even when we’re unable to be with them. Try framing your children’s artwork and sending a personalized copy to your Sailor or family, so that they have a piece of home for the holidays.
  • Family-wide gift exchange: Instead of attempting to send individual gifts to a number of family members, which can quickly add up, get your family to agree to write everyone’s name on a separate piece of paper, place all of them in a box, then have each individual draw one piece of paper from the box to indicate who they will purchase a gift for. To keep the meaning of the season in perspective, include a favorite charity in the name drawing.
  • Think locally and globally: Perhaps you realize that your family has all it needs this holiday season and wants to contribute to the local community. Think about participating in a gift-giving program for families, such as the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots, or a shoebox gift-giving concept like Operation Christmas Child.

Your biggest tool to help you maintain the 80/20 rule is to set limits. Find joy in giving any gift, big or small, from the meaning behind it. It’s also imperative to the success of any holiday budget (and to maintain your own peace of mind) that you stick to the amounts designated for gifts in your financial plan. Doing this upfront and discussing with those involved will help manage and curb expectations.

It is not always possible to give or participate financially, so other intangible gifts like time and service are worthy substitutes. They instill a sense of gratitude and are true reflections of the 80/20 idea. As the old adage goes, “don’t hang your hat where your hand can’t reach.” In other words, be aware of your financial limitations and do not overreach in areas you simply cannot afford just to please others.

Stay tuned for part three of our series, “The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season.”

The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season, Part 1

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

The most wonderful time of the year is almost here. But for some, the holiday season seems to appear as a thief would in the night – suddenly and 131231-N-QL471-200unwelcomed. There are any number of reasons why we have these feelings, some vague and others deeply rooted in our experiences. Nonetheless, when said and done, the holiday season can leave us with cold realities to face: lingering debts piled on from two seasons ago, the thought of budgeting for holiday parties, gift exchanges, family visits, travel, and elaborate meal planning—not to mention the great expectations of loved ones. It can leave any soul feeling a bit materially bankrupt this time of year. Before you give into accepting that it’s ok or unavoidable to accumulate another dollar of unplanned expenses, apply the Principles of Resilience to think strategically and act decisively. Meaningful goals can be your offensive tactics to battle any holiday excess and keep an even keel throughout the stress and excitement.

Thinking Strategically
Strategic thinking involves assessing your views and making purposeful decisions that will lead to success. Let’s consider an 80/20 approach. Think of this as a general principle directing us to put more effort, action and concentration into one critical attribute over another. Using this approach, our holiday focus should be personal relationships (80%) and spending (20%). Although the success we hope to achieve here is financial, we can also achieve peace of mind. The starting point of our holiday budget planning should be a conscious process where we identify what is truly important in the scheme of things. Usually, personal relationships and reflection/meaning are answers at the heart of this search.

This 80/20 idea is simply another way for us to understand and accept what most of us already know and believe –the focus of the holidays is family and togetherness, not extravagant spending.

Acting Decisively
A good plan requires gathering information and acting on it in a sensible manner. In addition to having the mental framework to plan for the holidays, a written analysis of your true financial picture must first be completed. Prepare a budget that clearly identifies your spending limits, debt and savings goals. Be sure to account for any extra holiday income, create a buffer for any unplanned activities, and estimate the cost of materials and postage for cards and gifts. Set realistic goals to exercise controllability, like avoiding additional credit card debt (layaway is a good option here). Step back and evaluate your budget based on the 80/20 approach to help you achieve balance and adjust as necessary.

After the budget is prepared, it should be placed in a highly visible place so that you can closely refer to it during those tempting holiday sales and promotions. Conscious holiday spending can also create an opportunity to save cash and put it toward existing debt or savings– whichever will put you in the most advantageous position. Consult your Command Financial Specialist (CFS), FFSC financial counselor or Military OneSource advisor for help creating a spending plan.

Finally, stay focused on what’s important this season, and take care of yourself! In addition to creating your holiday budget, now is a good time to review and update your Stress Navigation Plan.

Stay tuned for parts two and three of our series, “The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season.”