“The Twelve Days of Christmas”: It's a song that fills us with festive cheer and spotlights the giving spirit of the holidays. We all know the tune and the lyrics (well, at least some of them … is it seven swans a-swimming or geese a-laying?), but let's be honest, the lavish gifts would have cost a small fortune back in the day! Today, just one swan can cost over $2,000, and one goose can set you back almost $100!
The “true love” in the song, swept up in a thoughtful gesture, clearly overlooked the importance of budgeting. While we can appreciate his or her intention, it’s a good reminder that we all need to be mindful of our spending, especially during the holidays.
So, let’s add a dash (or 12!) of financial wisdom to the famous tune.
12 Days of Financial Tips to Bring You Financial Wisdom and Cheer
♫ On the first day of the holidays, my banker said to me, review last year’s receipts merrily.
Look at your spending from last year’s holiday shopping to see where you overspent and where you can save this year. Did you spend too much on gifts for certain people? Did you buy too many decorations? Did you perhaps go overboard on meals? Identifying these patterns will help you make informed holiday decisions.
For example, if you noticed you overspent on gifts for your kids, you could consider setting a budget for each of them this year. A recent poll shows that parents plan to spend around $200 per child this Christmas. Remember, this amount is just a helpful starting point, and you should spend only what works for your budget and for your family’s financial goals.
Online banking offers valuable financial tools for reviewing your spending habits and identifying trends. For instance, Bank of Utah’s online banking and mobile app platforms allow you to categorize your transactions so you can easily see how much you’re spending on different categories, such as gifts, groceries, and entertainment. You can also use online banking to create budgets, set spending limits and track your progress toward your goals.
♫ On the second day of the holidays, my banker said to me, craft a meticulous gift list.
Avoid the pitfalls of “winging it” by creating a detailed gift list with specific amounts allocated for each person on your list. This proactive approach will help you stick to your budget and ensure you find thoughtful gifts that each recipient will genuinely appreciate.
♫ On the third day of the holidays, my banker said to me, resist impulse buys.
This is a tough one, especially when you’re bombarded with holiday advertisements and sales. Exercise discipline, stick to your well-crafted list or even take a moment to reconsider and visualize the impact on your budget before making unplanned purchases.
♫ On the fourth day of the holidays, my banker said to me, uncover hidden costs.
Don’t let hidden costs, such as wrapping paper and tape, holidays meals or travel expenses, catch you off guard.
Remember to consider the quantity of gift-wrap you’ll need (and see if you can catch it on sale … some retailers already have 50 percent off holiday items). Plan your menus with each ingredient accounted for in, and with cost-effective options in mind. And, while you’ve probably already explored budget-friendly transportation and lodging, don’t forget to add in costs for meals (including snacks for the ride) and activity options.
♫ On the fifth day of the holidays, my banker said to me, be thoughtful about the shipping!
As you shop online this holiday season, be sure to factor in shipping costs and take advantage of ship-to-store options or any free shipping promotions.
The ship-to-store option offered by many retailers is a convenient service that allows you to have your online purchases shipped directly to your local store. This saves you money on shipping costs and eliminates the hassle of waiting for home deliveries.
If you can’t get to the store, be sure to combine your orders online. Many stores offer free shipping if you spend a minimum amount. If you’re buying your brother a cool tool from a hardware store, maybe add something your dad would love to the order to get the shipping discounted!
♫ On the sixth day of the holidays, my banker said to me, get creative with handmade gifts.
Instead of spending money on store-bought gifts, put your creativity to work. Whether you’re whipping up homemade treats with your kids or meticulously crafting a personalized cutting board, your efforts will be appreciated and may help you better stick to your holiday budget.
♫ On the seventh day of the holidays, my banker said to me, look for bargains.
Many retailers start their holiday sales early and extend them into December, so they can capitalize on increased customer demand and then start to clear out excess inventory. This strategy benefits you, too! Sign up for email alerts from your favorite stores and remember tips 1, 2 and 3 — stick to your budget, your gift list and resist impulse buys (even if they’re on sale!).
♫ On the eighth day of the holidays, my banker said to me, embrace the spirit of collaboration.
Pool your resources with friends, family or colleagues and give something truly special without putting a strain on your budget. For example, gather your siblings to contribute to a grand gift for your parents or encourage your teammates to chip in for a gift card for your coach.
Convenient financial tools, such as Zelle®, make collaborative gifting even easier. Zelle is found within online and mobile banking, and it lets you make digital payments straight from your bank account to your family and friends’ bank accounts, and vice versa — simply and safely. Zelle even makes it easy to split the bill. Just choose the people in your group, enter the total amount, and Zelle will send everyone a request for their share.
♫ On the ninth day of the holidays, my banker said to me, choose time over money.
Embrace the notion that "time is more precious than money" and focus on creating lasting memories with loved ones. You could simply attend a free holiday event together or enjoy a home-cooked, pot-luck-style meal together.
♫ On the tenth day of the holidays, my banker said to me, remember these lessons tried and true.
Reflect on your spending habits after the festivities this year. Consider what worked and what didn’t to improve your holiday budgeting for next year’s celebrations. For instance, if you find that group gift exchanges were successful in reducing individual spending, consider making it a tradition for future holidays.
♫ On the eleventh day of the holidays, my banker said to me, start saving for next year now.
Establish a dedicated holiday savings account and contribute a small portion to it each month. This will allow you to build up a financial buffer for the holiday season. You can even set up an automatic transfer from your regular checking or savings account to your separate holiday savings account to make saving effortless and stress-free.
Looking even further ahead to future holidays, you might want to explore the benefits of a Super Saver Certificate of Deposit (CD). Similar to regular CDs, this option allows you to secure a fixed interest rate for a set period, typically higher than what you’d get with a standard savings account. What sets the Super Saver CD apart is its flexibility — you can keep adding funds to it throughout the term.
Consider Bank of Utah’s Super Saver CD. With a one-year term, if you open it in early fall, you’ll be well-prepared for the holidays the following year!
♫ On the twelfth day of the holidays, my banker said to me, keep the spirit of giving all year.
Buy presents year-round to ease the stress of last-minute shopping. If you come across a great deal on a perfect gift for a loved one, purchase it and save it for the holidays. Just don’t forget about it!
From tips on budgeting, to education about using the tools attached to your account, to helping you save up for that partridge in a pear tree, our friendly, dedicated financial experts are ready to help you talk through your short- and long-term financial goals.
Please reach out for support in setting up a new account or optimizing your online banking experience. We can walk you through all of the resources available to you, ensuring you utilize their full capabilities. From establishing a dedicated savings fund to maximizing online banking and the mobile app, we are committed to making your financial management effortless and stress-free — and full of holiday glee!
Matt Quinney is the branch manager for Bank of Utah’s City Creek Banking Center.