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A Marine prices televisions at the Marine Corps Exchange aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico on Nov. 30.

Photo by Ameesha Felton

Reining in holiday budget

30 Nov 2012 | Ameesha Felton Marine Corps Base Quantico

With just a few weeks until Christmas, holiday shopping is in full swing. Americans are expected to spend more this year than last, according to The Nation Retail Federation, which projects holiday sales to increase by 4.1 percent from 2011.

While many are in a mad dash to “deck the halls,” financial experts at Marine Corps Base Quantico want to remind Marines and families of shopping pitfalls that can turn seasonal cheer into New Year drear.

“The biggest mistake people make during the holidays is not planning for [expenses that come along with] it,” said Louis Bromley, personal finance manager for Marine Corps Community Services.

Ideally people should start saving for the holidays several months in advance.

 “Christmas comes the same time every year so instead of putting a purchase on your card, set aside $12 to $20 each month at the beginning of the year, and then, when Christmas comes, you’ll have the cash in hand,” Bromley said.

Planning ahead can curb overspending and unwanted debt, but for last-minute shoppers without a plan, there are still strategies to help prevent post-holiday debt woes.

Before shopping, make a budget and list, then stick to it.

“Set limits by determining what you’re going to get and how you’ll spend,” Bromley said.

Understand that it’s not a competition.

“Most people just like to be remembered during the holidays and don’t pay that much attention to the monetary value of the gift,” Bromley said.

Senior case worker Carey Shott at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society aboard Quantico, said she often encourages military members and families to be creative.

 “There’s no shame in handmade gifts,” Shott said. “You can decoupage a cookie tin and make cookies with your kids. That’s going to mean so much more to your mom than another sweater.”

Drawing names with family members is another cost-cutting strategy.

“You don’t have to buy for your entire family if you can’t afford it,” advised Presha Merritt, director of the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

MCCS’ financial programs and the relief society are both resources on base that can help Marines and families organize budgets for specific occasions like Christmas or for general year-round expenses. The hope is that more people will be financially proactive.

 “Every year I see an influx of visitors in my office after the holidays and they say ‘Whoa! Next year we are going to do it differently,’” Bromley said

Overspending during the holidays can be devastating because of its residual effects throughout the year – potentially impacting emergency money, debt and or other holidays, Bromley said.

Staff Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico