We are in the middle of the final quarter of 2017. Financially speaking, have you accomplished all that you wanted for 2017? Did you pay down the credit card debt, save for that big-ticket item, or trip, or max out your 401k? Whatever you planned to do, now is the time to take a hard look to see where you stand for the year. If you are on track, you should feel a strong sense of accomplishment. Keep your eye on the prize and finish what you started. If you’ve gotten off track, don’t beat yourself up or stress out about it, there is still time to adjust. The first step is to assess those goals and prioritize the ones you can still reach by December 31st. We are also fast approaching the season of gift giving, holiday parties, and travelling to visit family. Additional financial burdens can stop the progress you’ve made toward reaching your financial goals for this year. Most importantly, realize how this time of year can derail your goals, and put you into debt. If you are like most people, you have great intentions of shopping early, spread out your spending, and breeze into December with only last-minute items to buy. But, if you are like most people, me included, you still have a long list, only so many dollars to spend, and running out of shopping days. These are the days that stretch you physically, emotionally, and financially and can take the joy out of the holidays. Below is a list of ways to help you plan for a fun holiday season with family and friends, stay out of debt, and still work toward reaching your financial goals for 2017.

  1. Write down how much net income you have for the remainder of the year. This will tell you how much you will have to spend on financial goals and the holidays.
  2. How much of your remaining net income for the year would you like to allocate toward your financial goals? Write it down.
  3. Create a spending plan for the holiday season.
    1. Make a list of gifts left to purchase. How much will each one cost, and add up the total.
    2. Make a list of holiday parties you will be attending. Now, when accepting invitations, there are a host of things to pay for as you get ready to attend. There may be new clothes to buy, hair and nails appointments to pay for, and are you bringing a hostess gift or white elephant? Write these extras down and add up the total cost. These are the hidden expenses in the holiday season that can derail you financially.
    3. Do you have a meal plan? If you have family coming to stay, additional guests for dinners, or hosting a party, you have some additional expenses that come right along with all this fun. Write it all down, how much will it cost to entertain?

Once you have everything you want to do by the end of the year on the list, how much net income do you have to pay for all that you want to do. If you have more on the list, then you have income, you have some tough choices to make. Where do you start? Start with what you value most. Write who and what you value down. Material gifts provide instant gratification and make people happy. But, how can you change your focus on the holiday season from how much money I spend on the latest gadget to how much time and attention I give to making memories with the people I love? You must also decide if you are able to buy all that is on your goals list and holiday list or if something must give. Your takeaways from reading this to the end is, that you are ready to take a good look at your financial picture for the remainder of the year, and can create a spending plan that will help you make choices based on what you value most. The best part, is that it is up to you. Do the math and make your choices count.