Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin mom and financial planner Tanya Steinhofer, CFA,CFP®.
The holiday season is upon us. This time of year can be filled with lots of fun activities and positive emotions. However, it can also be a stressful time for many, running from one party to the next, trying to get it all done in time and wondering how you are going to pay for it all. Here are some tips to help reduce the anxiety associated with the holiday season.
Plan Ahead. The earlier you start planning, the less likely you’ll make last-minute impulse purchases and decisions. Start saving money in January into a gift or holiday account so you don’t rack up a big credit card bill during the holidays. Keep a list on your phone or computer where you save gift ideas, whenever they come to you during the year. This list will help you avoid making last minute impulse purchases that may not be appreciated. Many stores offer discounts to those who shop early. For example, many of the photo websites offer significant discounts if you order your cards and photo books early. Starting early in the fall, make a list of all your potential holiday expenses, including gifts, cards, entertaining, charitable gifts, postage, etc.
Build a budget. First, decide what you can afford to spend in total on all holiday expenses and include everything. For example, you might decide you can only afford to spend $2,000 during the holidays. Of that, $1,000 will cover holiday gifts (including shipping), $500 holiday cards (including postage) and another $500 on entertaining. Make a complete list of all the people you’d like to give gifts to, including family members, friends, teachers and service providers. After you make your list, decide how much you can afford to spend on each person. Be realistic in your gift decisions. Also, consider giving people baked goods and other home-made items instead of buying gifts. This type of thoughtful gift can be less expensive and is often more appreciated.
The back-to-school season, be it pre-school or kindergarten, marks the end of summer and new beginnings. During this time of change it is easy to put managing your own lives on the back burner so that you can focus on helping your children transition smoothly. Before you know it, it is the holidays and you put it off even longer. The end result is that another year has gone by and you do not feel any better off than you did at the end of last year.
Do something different this year! Follow the three simple steps below from September through December and make the rest of this year count.
Step 1: Knowledge is Power. Just like when your children start school, the teachers want to know what they are capable of doing. Can they sit still for circle time? Can they follow directions? You need to know what you are capable of and where your money is at this point in time.
There are many free online personal finance resources to help you know where you are financially. For example, Mint.com, Personal Capital and Wikinvest are a few. These tools are very robust and can seem overwhelming. Tip: Decide what “your” goal is for using the online service. Is it tracking your expenses? Or is it getting a holistic view of several portfolios of investments? If it is for tracking your expenses, focus on that only (for now) until you have a good sense of where your money is going.
Marin Mommies presents another great guest article by Marin mom and financial planner Katy Song, CFP®.
Is the freedom that money buys worth the sacrifices you make to reach this freedom?
“What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Setting financial goals and creating your financial plan is all about determining your destination. And if life is about the journey, not the destination, then sacrificing today for tomorrow is a big contradiction. So, how can you live the journey you want and still reach your financial goals?
Step 1: Clarify your family’s goals first (financial and non-financial). For example: have six months’ worth of expenses in cash at all time as an Emergency Fund, travel as a family twice per year, be present and grow as a person each day, contribute to society, and retire by age 60.
“Time is money,” is something I say when I am trying to get my 4-year-old daughter to hurry up and do something. Today she asked me what it meant. I paused and thought for a few moments. I told her it meant that we have a lot to do and have to move quickly to get everything done. She seemed happy with this response, but it got me thinking about valuing time.
First, if you are gainfully employed your paycheck likely lists your hourly rate. Is this the value of an hour of your time? Hopefully you have a very high opinion of yourself and think your hourly rate undervalues you. So, why don’t you ask for a raise? In this economy you probably feel like you need to keep quiet to keep your job, but I think this is incorrect. Now is the time to show your value to your employer or clients, and to yourself. Life is short, and if you don’t ask you don’t get. (I heard this from a motivational speaker when I was 23 and it has stuck with me!)
Want to learn the top 5 actions you can take now to improve your family's financial future? Want to learn about family finances and have some fun, too? Come down to the free Family Finances Date Night hosted by financial expert and Marin Mommies contributor Katy Song and estate planning attorney Nadine Aarsheim. This wine-and-cheese event takes place Thursday, July 29, from 6:30–7:30 pm at the Integrated Design Studio at 219 Shoreline Highway in Mill Valley.
Afterward, make it a date night—everyone who attends will receive 10% off their meal at Frantoio restaurant for dinner following the discussion, so make your reservation and mention you're attenting Family Finances Date Night.