Holiday Budgeting photo

THE UPPER VALLEY − According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend more than $700 billion on holiday shopping this year. So the Standard Journal asked two local banks how Upper Valley residents could better budget for their holiday spending.

Laura Smith, the public relations director for Idaho Central Credit Union, said residents should start by setting a comfortable and realistic budget.

“Make sure you include any extra items such as gifts, donations, parties, food, etc. you may want to purchase at this time of year,” she said.

Craig Cobia, Beehive Federal Credit Union public relations and member education director, said residents need to begin their budgeting with the end in mind.

“Sometimes we forget to do the hard things—think of Christmas shopping and spending, months before the holidays arrive,” he said. “Vividly imagine how you want to feel in January after you have met your spending goals in December, instead of spending more on yourself and others.”

Smith said residents can begin their budget by looking at all of their expenses side by side.

“Create a wants versus needs list to evaluate what purchases are necessary at this time of year,” she said. “Then stick to your plan.”

Cobia said to start budgeting with simple things.

“Just start tracking your spending and income,” he said. “Set small and realistic goals. Consider using a free app such as Habitshare to help you get and stay on track. Be kind to yourself when you fall short of your expectations. And most importantly, keep trying.”

When asked about the pitfalls people normally run into around the holidays she said to prepare for sales.

“There are many sales and special events during this time of year,” Smith said. “It’s best to plan for these ahead of time and know what your budget can handle. Find gifts to purchase within your budget or consider making food dishes or holiday crafts at home to save money.”

Cobia said one of the biggest setbacks for residents is not budgeting at all.

“We all want to be liked and loved,” he said. “Often we show that we care for others by serving them in ways that are most important to them. One of these ways may include spending on a loved one’s wants or needs. And to complicate things, we each have our own wants and needs.”

Cobia suggested that residents become more financially stable by doing the following things: 1) Spend less than you earn, 2) Set aside money for unexpected expenses, 3) Set up and follow a plan to pay down debt. 4) Consider ways to increase your skills and income. 5) Celebrate small wins along the way. 6) Connect with others to stay on track with your goals.

Smith said the earlier residents start saving and planning the better.

“At every ICCU branch, we have a worksheet brochure that will help members consider all income and expenses and then have an accurate view of where their money is spent and where they can make adjustments if needed,” she said. “ICCU Financial Service Officers are happy to sit down with members any time and help them create, or evaluate, their budgets.”

Beehive Federal Credit Union offers financial education for those who want to further their monetary education. Cobia said residents can start now by using the free Dave Ramsey Every Dollar app. He said in February and September residents can also sign up to attend the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class. Visit beehive.org/daveramsey for more information.

Cobia suggested reading Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and said it’s also a great resource for residents.

“Beehive receives no income from these (resources) and provides these classes as a community service,” Cobia said.

For more budgeting advice contact Cobia from Beehive Federal Credit Union at ccobia@beehive.org or visit ICCU’s website and use their “Get In Touch” tool to speak with someone who can help.