Don’t Be a Financial Turkey This Thanksgiving

With the ghouls and goblins and zombies of Halloween now just ghosts in autumn’s rear-view mirror, it’s time we face the fact that the Holidays are here.

Don't be a financial turkey this Thanksgiving SeasonThanksgiving has, so far, successfully resisted yielding to the consumerism of our great land and remains, for most of us, a time of great hope, gratitude and gathering with loved ones… oh, and of turkey bowl football games in as much mud or snow as we can find.

Still, in spite of the holiday’s non-commercial nature, there are still expenses and habits that many of us repeat year in and year out on or around the fourth Thursday of November that could label us as “financial turkeys” (no, that should not be a flattering term). Ask yourself the following questions, answering “yes” or “no:”

  1. Have you ever put a Thanksgiving dinner on a credit card, knowing you would not be able to pay off the full balance by the next due date?
  2. Have you volunteered to host the Thanksgiving meal at your home and provided ALL the fixings yourself when others were more than willing to bring a dish or two? Answer “yes” particularly when you’ve done so, not because you like your food better but because you wanted to prove to yourself and others that you are in a position (financial , social and otherwise) to do so. Basically, did you want to show off? I know… such things never happen in most families.
  3. Do you do most of your Christmas and holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving (“Black Friday”)?
  4. Have you traveled by air or car to have Thanksgiving with family or friends, not really being able to afford to do so, and knowing that such an expense was going to add financial stress to the holiday gathering?
  5. Does your Christmas gift and other holiday-related shopping gobble up virtually your entire emergency savings?
  6. Do you wait until November (or December) to begin saving money for your Christmas gift and other holiday-related shopping?
  7. Have you asked to work on Thanksgiving Day in order to earn overtime pay so you can afford to buy more Christmas gifts this year?

How did you do? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions. If so, you might check for other spending feathers in your budget at this time of year.

  • If you haven’t done so already, open a Christmas savings account and transfer small amounts to it each month beginning with January. Or, use a normal savings account and make your Christmas gift purchases throughout the year as you see sales of things those on your list would enjoy. That way, you can stay sleep in on Black Friday, knowing you spend far less this year on gifts than all of the poor souls jostling each other about for the few freebies left in the stores.
  • Go easy on the stuffing when it comes to what kind of feast you can afford to host. If you go into debt in order to provide a healthy meal on Thanksgiving Day, be aware that you will likely also be giving an unhealthy dose of guilt along with those mashed potatoes, since everyone will probably know that you can’t afford to host such a spread. “Mmmm, these credit card interest rates are so creamy!”
  • In the era of Pinterest and Facebook, there should be no need to spend loads of cash or go into credit card debt buying expensive gifts that are “all the rage. Just because you don’t know what you could make yourself doesn’t mean you couldn’t spend a few moments researching home made possibilities on these sites. Plus, you’ll fee you put more more thought into the research than simply running to a store and picking out the latest hot gifts.

Don’t let yourself be a Financial Turkey this year. Avoid some the mistakes referred to above, and you’ll have a happier and financially healthier Thanksgiving 2013 Season.

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And have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!

Author of Everyday Money for Everyday People, Todd ChristensenTodd Christensen
Everyday Money for Everyday People


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