Thursday, November 06, 2008



One thing the current economic crunch is proving is that we can not continue to spend what we don't have indefinitely! Sooner or later there has to come a time of reckoning, which is what the financial geniuses are trying to deal with now.

It would seem that our whole system is based on people, companies, cities and countries living well beyond their means and in fact existing strictly on credit.

There is little we can do about the BIG picture, but we can do something about getting and keeping our own financial house in order. A good place to start is to never put a charge on a credit card unless we have the cash on hand to pay the account in full when it comes in. If we don't we are paying at least 20% more for an item, if it takes us 12 months to finally get it paid for.

This Christmas instead of getting caught up in all the gimmicky, emotion tweaking messages crafted by those high priced ad agencies set yourself a budget and stick to it.

For some this may be a completely unthinkable prospect and in fact it may seem so foreign you have no idea where to start, so let me help you out.

First you need to know just how much money you have left after you have paid for the necessities of life. In order to answer this question you need to know how much your monthly expenses actually total. For those of you already on a budget, bravo, you are miles ahead of the rest of us.

Make a list of all your household expenses including items such as food, rent/mortgage, telephone, hydro, gas, cable, car payment, insurance, car repair, public transit pass etc. etc. Now add up all these totals and you know what your monthly outcome will be.

Next add up all your pay slips for the month and see what your total income will be for the period. Remember that your income must always meet or exceed your outcome (new word) or you are headed for a downfall.

When you subtract your expenses from your total income, any funds you have left over is your mad money or in fancier terms is your discretionary spending allowance. Resist the urge to see those pieces of plastic in your pocket as additional mad money, because it is not!

Now that you know how much money you can spend on gifts you need to decide who you are going to buy for, so let's make another list. Start with close family members (presuming of course you like your family), then begin branching out to close friends etc.

You are now in a position to budget how much you will spend on gifts for each member on your list, remembering of course that all gifts do not have to cost a lot of money to be appropriate and thoughtful.

If you can discipline yourself this Christmas to only spend the money you have and stick with your plan then next January when all your friends are fretting and stewing over how to pay their credit card bills, you will be stress free and debt free.

You will find that condition to have been worth the sacrifice of not getting all caught up in the giant Christmas Sales Machine designed to get you to spend money you don't really have.


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