Black Friday used to be a one-day event for all those power shoppers sleeping off their turkey dinners in tents outside the mall. Today, that quick sprint for a bargain TV or Tickle Me Elmo has turned into a two-month shopping marathon that many of us run from the comfort of our homes. I’ve been seeing Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers in my email and social media feeds since early November!
Unfortunately, the excitement of the holiday shopping season can cause some folks to forget one of Keen Wealth’s golden rules about retirement planning: control the controllable. And for better or worse, nothing has a more powerful and immediate effect on your retirement plan than your spending.
These 4 tips can help you control your holiday shopping so that your nest egg doesn’t turn into a lump of coal.
1. Make your list … and check it twice!
The best way to avoid splurging on holiday shopping is to plan ahead. Sit down with your spouse and figure out exactly how much money you plan to spend on gifts. Then, make a list of all the loved ones you’ll be shopping for. This will give you a good idea of how much you can afford to spend per person and per present.
If you’re retired and your kids are grown, it might also be time to rethink your gift-giving altogether. Take a look around the house. Are your closets full of well-intentioned but unnecessary presents you never used? Are the holidays just adding to your spring-cleaning list?
Go ahead and spoil the grandkids a little. But think about spending limits for the adults. Start a new tradition, like a pie or gift card swap.
You’re never going to believe this, but many holiday shopping deals that look too good to be true are … too good to be true! Sometimes a cheap TV is just a cheap TV that’s not worth its discounted price tag. Stores shouting at you to “Hurry in!” might be trying to get rid of stuff that no one wants.
A little bit of pre-shopping will help you sort through the junk and zero in on the real deals. If you’re looking for a new TV, don’t just grab the one that’s stacked up by the front door of the store. Do a little bit of research and compare what different stores are offering for name-brand products.
Also, unless you really want to cross off your whole holiday shopping list in one go, Thanksgiving weekend doesn’t always offer the best prices on everything. Experts say that you can usually get good deals on electronics (especially Apple products) and home appliances in the next two weeks. But toys and decorations usually see the biggest markdowns closer to Christmas (1).
3. Put away the plastic.
In 2018, Americans who use credit for holiday shopping took on over $1,200 in additional debt (2). Most spending was via credit cards but, believe it or not, a good chunk of that borrowing came in the form of personal loans. Some folks even finance holiday shopping with home equity or by dipping into retirement accounts!
Now, debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even if you’re retired. And you might find a good holiday deal to finance that car your spouse has been eyeing or some big home theatre upgrades you’ll both enjoy.
But it’s usually best to avoid adding to your debt for non-essential reasons once you’re living off a fixed income. In fact, most of our clients try to pay off things like credit cards and auto loans before they retire.
The best way to use credit cards for holiday shopping is as a convenience. If you don’t want to carry around a lot of cash, swipe within the budget you’ve established and pay off your balance so that you start the New Year with a clean slate. Remember: a 0% financing offer is still going to create a new monthly bill. Will that extra payment stretch your budget? And at this stage of your life, do you really need another credit account anyway?
4. Get creative.
Many seniors use retirement to develop interests and skills into true talents. Something you’ve gotten really good at might make for a much more memorable gift than anything you can snag on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
One holiday gift that rarely goes to waste: food! If you’ve ramped up your baking since retirement, give batches of homemade cookies or fresh pies.
Is your granddaughter’s golf game giving her fits? Your lessons might help more than a new set of clubs.
Today’s store-bought clothes are often tomorrow’s Goodwill donations. But a handknit blanket from grandma will be treasured for generations.
Or, think about ways you can combine your other retirement goals with holiday giving. Christmas morning might be the perfect time for your family to unwrap that dream vacation you want everyone to go on together.
The last thing I want to do as we head into the holidays is sound like Scrooge! But helping clients balance short-term and long-term spending issues is one of our biggest responsibilities at Keen Wealth. We want you to enjoy the wealth you’ve spent a lifetime building for years to come. Much like your retirement, the holidays shouldn’t just be about buying stuff. They should be about doing things you love with the people you love the most.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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The Amazon Best Seller ranking listed on marketing materials is specifically referring to Best Seller rankings for the Kindle Top 100 Paid Lists under the subcategories of: Budgeting and Financial Risk Management, based on data as of September 5, 2019. Amazon rankings although relevant on how a product is selling overall doesn’t necessarily indicate how well an item is selling among other similar items or similar item categories. Amazon may choose the most popular categories or subcategories within which an item has a high ranking to determine its best seller rankings. These rankings are updated hourly and as a result, should be expected to fluctuate as such. Keen Wealth Advisors and Amazon are not affiliated entities. For further details on Amazon rankings please visit https://www.keenwealthadvisors.com/important-disclosures.