The holiday season is here and that can only mean one thing — the hunt for the perfect gifts for your friends and family has begun. But before you start swiping your credit cards, it’s crucial to make a plan to keep your spending in line. Heading into the holidays without taking your finances into consideration could leave you crawling out of debt for months. Feeling stressed much? We get it, and we’ve you covered.
Bustle asked Alexa von Tobel, New York Times-bestselling author of Financially Fearless, to take over the Bustle App and offer her best holiday gift-giving tips. The author is also the Founder & CEO of LearnVest, a program that makes financial planning affordable and accessible. And, much like the rest of us, she’s learned a lot from her own financial mishaps. So, she gets it — financial planning is hard sometimes.
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“Most 20-somethings— male and female—don’t realize that retirement is something they need to think about and plan for today. But, that’s a big mistake,” von Tobel said, “Thanks to the power of compounding interest, money you start putting away at 25 has far more opportunity to grow than money you put away even 10 years later. Even if you can’t afford to contribute a ton right now, every single dollar counts so it’s important to get started.”
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“I think the biggest thing that has empowered me and changed my life is not being afraid of my money — knowing that I can feel in control, even just from learning the basics,” von Tobel said, “And feeling in control is not about how much money you make or don’t make. It’s about having a plan in place that helps you feel confident you’re making progress toward your goals, one day at a time.”
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How To Do Holiday Gift Giving On A Budget
“First, and most importantly, approach the holiday season with a plan,” von Tobel said, “I highly encourage my friends and family to shop year-round to score the best prices.”
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It’s OK To Treat Yourself Sometimes
“Everyone always thinks of a budget as something that tells them ‘no,’ and that it is all about abstaining,” von Tobel said, “But a really balanced budget accounts for splurges and things that bring you joy — it’s not about feeling deprived — otherwise you’d never stick to it!”
Sometimes You Have To Learn The Hard Way
“Not having a financial plan is a plan—just a really bad one! Given what I see as a general lack of personal-finance education, it can be all too easy to try to wing it with your money and not understand some of the basic things you need to have as part of a financial plan,” von Tobel said.