Steve Fournier, President, Central New York Market, KeyBank
In recent years, cutting-edge electronics have become an important part of the holiday spending spree. Whether it’s smartphones, a tablet, the latest gaming system or the newest 4K TV, they are big ticket gifts that make a big impact. They are also big budget busters, especially when coupled with other often-overlooked holiday expenses like entertaining, decorations, extra groceries, postage fees and gift wrap. The result: most consumers continue paying the price tag for their holiday spending well after the gifts have been exchanged and desserts have been served.
This year, technology can play a new role in your holidays. While it can still be a great gift, it can also be a powerful tool in managing your finances—thanks in large part to innovations banks have made to compete for your business.
That today’s consumer wants easier access to just about everything, from information to products and services, is not breaking news. This is why banks have raced to develop technology to keep up with the demand from customers to be able to bank when they want, where they want and how they want. The world is now at our fingertips. You know it. Your bank knows it. And it’s leading to some very powerful tools that are changing the way people bank.
Of course, technology is only a tool. It doesn’t change the fundamentals of money management—budgeting, saving, investing—it simply makes it easier to do so.
Save money by making smarter decisions
According to a recent study by retail marketing group OPOAI, 76 percent of the average shopper’s decisions are made in the store aisle. Technology can help make it easier to make better decisions by making our financial information more readily available, but it’s still up to us to process that information, control our emotions and understand the impact of our spending on our overall financial plan.
That’s right, even with the power of the world at our fingertips, we still need a plan. So sit down and grab a pen and piece of paper, or open your note-taking app on your smartphone or tablet. Make a list of every possible expense this holiday season, from gifts to entertaining, and then look at your budget. A little splurge here and there is okay, but you don’t want to put yourself in the position of paying for your holiday extravagance six months, one year, or three years down the road. When you shop, shop with purpose—to fulfill a need on your list.
Busting your holiday spending budget is like the snowball effect. Once the floodgates are open, people tend to just spend more. In the past, all we had is a plan, hopefully, and our willpower, which is admittedly weak, to keep things under control. For most people, this hasn’t been enough. This year, with technology and the power of now in our hand, we can be better equipped to do a better job.
Tips for making this holiday season more affordable
There are two big reasons people overspend during the holiday season: one, they overlook expenses, and two, they use credit cards to make their purchases.
To avoid overspending and the need for credit card purchases, make a list:
• Who will you be gifting to, and how much will you spend on them?
• What charities will you support, and how much will you donate?
• Who will you entertain, and how much will hosting them cost?
• What are your other expenses?
Look for ways to save money. Get crafty and personal with gifts. Donate your time instead of money to a nonprofit. If you’re hosting parties, what can guests bring to contribute, especially if it is family and close friends?
Also, don’t overlook non-gift expenses. Do you go Clark Griswold style from the movie Christmas Vacation and run up costs with your lighting display electric bill and decorations? What about wrapping paper? Many stores offer free wrapping as a courtesy. And if you travel, don’t fail to account for fuel, tolls, and/or ticket fares.
By putting together a comprehensive list, you’ll have a very good handle on what your expenses are going to be and what you can afford.
If you do have to use a credit card this holiday season, choose a card that offers valuable rewards. There are many cards with many different benefits. Which benefits are meaningful to you—cash back, miles, etc.—will be based upon your own individual preferences. Also use a card with favorable borrowing terms.
If you use your bank debit card, be sure to track your account balance and transactions regularly. Use mobile banking apps and text alerts to provide you with up-to-the-minute information. For more details, visit your bank and talk to your relationship manager about what programs and tools are available to you.