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Rich or poor... Budgeting is key to holiday survival
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The amount of money available to a person does not change the importance of sticking to a budget during the holidays.
“People from any economic group can dig themselves into a hole during the holidays if they get carried away with emotional or irrational spending,” said Bobbie Shaffett, family resource management professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Debts created by excessive gift buying, travel, and decoration or food expenses could still be on credit card bills at this time next year.”
Sarah Moye is a graduate of the Starkville Bridges Out of Poverty program and now volunteers to help others in the program. While the holidays offer many temptations, she said learning how to make responsible choices has been important in her effort to improve her economic situation.
“I ended up in poverty because of bad choices I made. I spent too much on myself and on things I thought were important,” she said. “The most common mistake I made during the holidays was overspending, trying to make my children happy.”
Moye said her mother tried unsuccessfully to teach her to put gifts on layaway. Now that Moye understands the benefits of financial planning, she is trying to teach the next generation similar lessons.
“We get into trouble when we are trying to make everyone happy. Things that look good are often not good for you,” she said.
Moye remembers needing help from charitable programs to provide presents for her family.
“Most people don’t realize how many people in their community are living in poverty. A lot of them never sign up for special assistance and are embarrassed to admit they need help,” she said. “Whenever people want to help others during the holidays, they should try to find out what they really need. Find out sizes and other preferences. When giving food items, select food that you would want. Healthy choices are thoughtful.”
Shaffett said reasonable assistance can help families in poverty or those living on the edge. Including children in the holiday tradition of helping the less fortunate lays a foundation of generosity, but the process should not be about the givers. Intentions can be obvious to the recipients.
“Gifts to those with financial challenges should begin with respect. If your heart is not in it, then make a donation to a holiday charity or faith organization, and allow others to assist in your place,” she said. “Giving to a needy family is not that different from giving to your own family. You want to give quality items that will hold up and food that will not go to waste.”
Shaffett said when families are looking to provide assistance to others, a number of established organizations can provide names of local residents who need help. If appropriate, communicate with the head of the household to find out preferences for items needed and a method of delivery.
“Some parents may not want a big production when the gifts are delivered. Others may want their entire family present to express gratitude. Regardless, they should feel free to choose,” she said.