Monday, December 19, 2011

My Rules for Getting Through the Post-holiday Financial Doldrums

There are few times of the year that I dislike more than that month or two that follow the holiday season. October comes with Halloween. November we have Thanksgiving. December brings Christmas and New Years. Then there’s the let-down.

In January, there are W-2 forms being issued, which is about all I can look forward to, and which in turn means I get to start on the family’s income taxes. Then there is the credit card bill that comes for our holiday spending. And in February, my high-point -- if I’m on my game -- is getting our taxes mailed out.

Pretty exciting, huh?

So how do I get through the post-holiday financial doldrums? Well, it’s not always easy, but over the years, I’ve given myself a few rules to help me suffer through this period a little more successfully.

Set Up for Success
I try to set myself up for success before I ever reach the post-holiday financial doldrums. By constructing a holiday budget, breaking down that budget into how, where and upon whom I’ll be spending it, and then abiding by that budget, I can keep from overdoing it on holiday spending. This doesn’t leave me feeling so guilty after the fact and playing catch-up on my bills.

Look at the Doldrums as an Opportunity
For me, this is a great time of year in which to buckle down and really focus on my financial situation. Since we have typically lived in areas where January and February are the “hunker down” months, due to their bringing less than favorable weather for outdoor activities -- and since I’m not a big winter sports person -- there isn’t much to steal my attention away from dealing with my finances.

Not only do I find this is a great time to heighten productivity due to lack of distractions, but I have the time to do the family taxes, do some post-holiday deal shopping to look for next year’s gifts, and work on those financial New Year’s resolutions.

Incorporate Your New Year’s Resolutions
Speaking of New Year’s resolutions, this aspect of the holiday season can be a great precursor to making the transition into the post-holiday financial doldrums. By centering a few of your resolutions around financial goals, you may be able to make them a part of your financial fitness for the new year. With a few goals to help push you, there may be a bit more motivation when it comes to how and how successfully you push through the post-holiday period.

Make a List and Check it Twice
Your holiday list doesn’t have to disappear with the passing of December. In fact, a list could prove just as helpful to your finances after the holidays as before them. I find that compiling a list of holiday or holiday-related expenses that will be coming in -- before they arrive -- can help me better prepare for what could be a higher than normal billing period on the old credit card.

At least having a general idea of what sorts of bills are coming in and in what amounts can help you get the ball rolling on putting a little extra money away from that first post-holiday paycheck or two for paying down doldrums’ debt. And if nothing else, if you can’t pay off your holiday bills all at once, you can at least start coming up with a plan and timeframe for how you will do so. With no big-expense holidays lurking in the months immediately following December, and possibly little to do outdoors, I find that there is very little excuse for not sticking to your guns and getting your holiday bills paid off during the doldrums months.

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