As the year ends, holiday shopping and travel might be throwing your finances for a loop—and if that’s the case, know you’re not alone! Nearly 42% of Americans expect to go into debt during the holiday season. 1
With a new year right around the corner, it’s easy to adopt a “the diet starts on Monday” approach to your finances and put off dealing with money-related stress. However, the best thing you can do is start healthy habits now so they’re easy to maintain.
Here are a few ways you can stay consistent with your financial goals now and into the new year.
Start a “Just-in-Case” Fund
Building an emergency fund (complete with three to six months of spending needs) is a great plan, but actually saving that much money can be daunting!
Start flexing your saving muscles by creating mini savings funds for smaller, predictable events in addition to emergencies. You might start a savings fund for:
- Trips—aren’t we all daydreaming about a tropical vacation right about now?
- Takeout meals for the nights when cooking is too much to contemplate
- Extra coffee (and maybe a croissant) to perk you up after a sleepless night
Additionally, plan to be kind to your future self. Start saving small amounts and celebrate your successes as you go. Feeling your best will help you work on your other, larger saving goals.
Prepare for Debt and Overspending Damage Control
You’re in good company if you spend more than planned during the holidays. Close to 9 in 10 Millennials overspend—of those, 1 in 5 overspends by $500 or more!2
The best thing you can do is develop a specific plan for paying off that debt (along with setting up a mini savings fund for future holidays). Here’s how to do post-holiday damage control:
Start by setting a timeline for paying off any debt: faster is better, but be sure to factor in debt payoff with your existing budget and spending requirements.
Explore strategies you can use to get rid of that debt. Since it’s winter, we’ll talk about the snowball and avalanche methods.
- Snowball: Make a list of all your debts, from the smallest to the largest. Start with your smallest debt. Make minimum payments on everything, and add any extra money to your smallest debt. Once you’ve paid it off, you “snowball” the minimum amount and extra money to the next debt on your list. Repeat until your debt is gone.
- Avalanche: Make a list of all your debts, from the highest interest rate to the lowest. Start with your highest interest rate debt, regardless of the amount. Make minimum payments on everything, and add any extra money to the highest interest rate debt. Once you’ve paid it off, you “avalanche” the minimum amount and extra money to the next debt on your list. Repeat until your debt is gone.
Finally, negotiate interest rates and due dates with your credit providers. Reducing interest rates will help you pay off debt more quickly. Choosing your due date allows you to plan payments around paydays and other financial activities.
Stay the Course and Trust the Plan
The end of the year is stressful, and market volatility makes it even tenser. That’s why correctly allocating your investment portfolio matters. Some key factors include:
- Your time horizon—when will you need to access that money?
- Your risk tolerance—how much risk can you absorb and still meet your goals?
As long as your time horizon and risk tolerance match up, stay consistent. Stick to your investing plan, even when the market is volatile. Dollar-cost averaging is a sound strategy for staying the course.
Dollar-cost averaging involves investing a set amount of money regularly, no matter what the market is doing. This effective (and low-effort) investment strategy allows you to take advantage of random daily gains while growing your money over time.
Create Your Resolutions
When the dust (or snow) settles, the decorations are put away, and you’re ready to make your financial New Year’s Resolutions, our team is here to help!
Reach out to our SMARTMap Financial Advocate team with any questions about your retirement plan strategy and setting up your finances for the new year.
Prepared by a third-party.
1. Harzog, B. (2022, Nov. 16). "Survey: Nearly 42% expect to go into debt to pay for the holidays." https://money.usnews.com/credit-cards/articles/survey-nearly-42-expect-to-go-into-debt-to-pay-for-the-holidays
2. Fragassi, S. (2022, Oct. 24). "86% of Millennials overspend during the holidays—avoid their mistakes in 8 ways." https://www.yahoo.com/video/86-millennials-overspend-during-holidays-220229859.html?guccounter=1