It’s payback time

By: Alison Dunn Jan 18, 2011
It’s payback time

Oops, I did it again.

No, I’m not channeling Britney Spears. I’m admitting that, despite my best intentions, I went a wee bit off track with my holiday spending this year.

Before Christmas, I diligently sat down with a spreadsheet to plan out my gift-giving this year. I set a budget and was determined to stick to it. Cash only for gifts, no spending on credit cards and cut back on the gift-giving – then I wouldn’t have any dreaded bills to open come January.

Famous last words. You know how it is. You get busy right before Christmas and end up buying a few things online (and paying with your credit card). Oops – just broke one rule. Then you remember that you didn’t put the babysitter’s kids, the paper carrier, or the bus driver on your gift list, therefore you didn’t budget for them. Oops – just broke another rule. Then you saw an amazing gift for your kids/spouse/grandma/best friend that was over budget but you knew they just had to have it. Oops – there goes the last rule!

Yes, as much as we plan to keep control of our spending over the holiday season, it’s oh-so-easy to get carried away in the December rush. But now that it’s January, and the bills are pouring in, it’s hard not to get angry with yourself for not sticking to the plan.

Luckily, it’s not all bad news. Yes, the damage is already done, but you (and I) don’t have to throw in the towel. In fact, we spoke to TV host and financial expert Alison Griffiths for our article “Time to pay the piper,” and she offered some pretty sound advice for what to do if your holiday spending went a bit out of control.

Her advice is great, and I know I’m going to follow it to dig myself out of my “holiday hole.” For starters, I’m going to pay off those high-interest credit cards this month. It might mean a few less meals out and cutting back on the clothing budget for the month, but there’s no point in paying a ridiculous amount of interest – if you leave it long enough, you might find you end up paying more in interest than you actually paid for the items!

Griffiths also offered advice on how to make more money by selling things you no longer want on websites like Kijiji or Craigslist. Great advice – and a great way to clear out all the old toys and items the kids don’t play with anymore! (Not to mention make room for all the new toys that came because of all this extra spending.)

Finally, she also advises making a plan and starting to save for next Christmas now – so you don’t find yourself in this mess again. Think about it: if you put aside $100 a month starting now, you’ll have $1,200 in cash by the time Christmas rolls around. Merry Christmas indeed!

No matter what, the important thing is not to beat yourself up over your excess spending. Instead, why not focus that energy on getting those debts paid off and saving for next Christmas? Oh, and remember to put the bus driver on the gift list too!

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.