Summer vacations at the shore, road trips at spring break and enough gifts under the Christmas tree to fill the living room, spark joyful memories for many of us. Those days don’t have to be long gone. Financially preparing for special occasions and major holidays can afford us the same pleasures that we have grown accustomed to throughout the years.
Professional CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Shaun B. Freeman says that even in the current economic climate everyone can start positioning themselves for achieving both their long term goals, like retirement, and their short term goals, like vacations and holiday gift giving, through financial planning. All it takes is a little prioritizing.
“Set goals and budget,” says Freeman who also recommends cushioning costs for contingencies. He offers the following steps as a quick guide. First, lay out goals in order of importance and according to the amount of time you have to achieve them. Next, budget a certain amount of money for current expenses and then figure out how much you have left for the short goals (holiday shopping or a trip for spring break) and long term goals (a 2013 summer vacation) that you’ve set for yourself.
“Understanding where you are financially and knowing how much you have to work with to achieve your goals, makes the process easier,” says Freeman. “This way you can adjust what you want to accomplish to realistic levels, whether those levels end up being higher or lower.”
Regardless of whether you want to travel abroad or stay close to home, you should still make a plan for the best results. “Every situation is going to be different,” says Freeman. “Some people may be in a position to take a European vacation every year and others may opt for a “Staycation” where the family takes advantage of activities their locale has to offer.”
Freeman recommends to start planning for the European vacation a couple of years in advance. “Set up a separate account and make deposits on a monthly basis to cover the expenses so when the family lands back at home the only stress they have is getting home from the airport and unpacking bags. This alleviates worrying about paying the credit card bill that you may have accumulated to pay for the trip.
If your bank does not have an old school Christmas Club (an account specifically set up to save for holiday shopping) Freeman suggests setting up your own. “My mom had one set up for us and I always had something under the tree when Christmas rolled around,” he recalls. “So a separate account where a person would set aside that budgeted holiday money is a great tool.” The bottom line, Freeman insists, is that a person can plan great summer experiences and wonderful holidays by proper budgeting, and it can be achieved at many different income levels. Now is a great time to start setting money aside for your future goals.