Smart Women Welcomes Crowd for 'Balancing the Holidays: Without Breaking the Bank'
This article is republished with the permission of the State Gazette and Rachel Townsend.

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RACHEL TOWNSEND
rtownsend@stategazette.com
State Gazette photos/ Rachel Townsend

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Photo of Beth Bell

Smart Women recently held a program entitled ‘Balancing the Holidays: Without Breaking the
Bank,’ with guest speaker Beth Bell.


Thursday evening, November 14, a crowd of interested women gathered at McIver’s Grant
Public Library for a Smart Women program focusing on holiday budgeting.

Photo of Judy Long

Guests were welcomed to the event by First Citizens National Bank President and COO Judy Long

Entitled Balancing the Holidays: Without Breaking the Bank, the program welcomed guest speaker Beth Bell and Courtney Williams of First Citizens National Bank, with catering for the event provided by The Willow Tree.

Throughout the program, Bell discussed numerous ways to stay on top of things during the bustle of the holiday season, starting first with finding ways to reduce stress. 

Using examples such as mailing out Christmas cards and holiday cooking, Bell suggested women acknowledge the largest sources of stress during the holidays —later making decisions on whether to simplify the tasks, ask for help, or drop them from their “to-do” list, altogether.

Holiday traditions can be tedious and costly. Bell says many Americans accrue an  average of roughly $1,000 in debt following Christmas—debt which also rolls over into January and can lead to high interest payments if not paid off quickly.

For those wishing to make drastic cuts to their holiday traditions in an effort to save money or spend less, Bell recommends first discussing plans with family members who will be impacted by the change to make sure the transition is understood and agreeable.

Next, Bell says you need to decide how much money you are willing to spend during the holidays. Once you have written down a realistic figure, stick to it by tracking purchases on a digital list that includes:

• Gifts
• Travel expenses
• Wrapping paper
• Decorations
• Entertaining
• Cards/postage
• Extra phone costs for holidays
• Church gifting
• Business/ work costs
• Charity contributions
• Service gifts

For each item, write how much you plan to spend, what you actually spent and the difference between the two.

Tracking gifts online? Bell has an easy chart for that too…

To track online gifts, include:
• Gift item
• Whom the gift is for
• Date the gift was ordered
• Credit card used to purchase the gift
• Merchant info
• Cost

To make things even simpler, Bell noted that Smart Phones come with pre-installed notepads, allowing you to make your chart mobile and more convenient.

For those who like to shop online, Bell offered these helpful tips:

Shop secure
-Choose reputable merchants.
-Use a credit card.
-Look for secure sites.
-Consider using a VPN.
-Always use a secure Internet connection.

Maximize savings
-Price check using apps like RetailMeNot, Redlazer or Buyvia.
-Take advantage of coupons and free shipping.
-Try Amazon’s camelcamelcamel.com to check price range history for a product.
-Join a cash-back site like Ebates.com or BeFrugal.com.

Track purchases
-Use a list.
-Make a note of tracking links and arrival dates.
-Create a spreadsheet in Excel or Notes to easily copy and paste tracking links.
-Secure delivery to a place of business or home security system.
-Check off items as they arrive and check credit card statements for accuracy and fraud.

Noted by Williams, online reward points are often offered through credit card companies and banking institutions, and (depending on how much you have earned) can easily translate over to gift cards.

Williams also recommended apps such as Bonzai!, which offers financial literacy, and Zelle, an app that allows consumers to split the cost on purchases.