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A lean holiday budget doesn't have to equal disappointment

Kim McGrigg

By Kim McGrigg, Community and Media Relations Manager

Financial difficulties have far-reaching impacts that are even harder felt during the holiday season. It is understandable why so many people — particularly those with children — push thoughts about their financial issues aside during the holiday season.

Unfortunately, ignoring your finances even for a few short months can have implications that last far into the New Year. But sticking with a budget means that you and your family may have to face some changes and, as we all know, change can be scary.

So how do you tell your children that this holiday season will have to be leaner?

Set expectations. Communicate openly with kids about money, in simple terms that they can comprehend. While a young child doesn’t need to know all of the details about your financial situation, they should understand basic benefits of budgeting and saving money. Don’t forget to talk about all the ways your family is fortunate. After all, one secret of financial success is to appreciate the things that you already have (so dust off those old forgotten favHoliday dogorite toys from holidays past!)

Focus on activities that foster holiday spirit. Take the focus off the gifts and on to experiences. There are a lot of inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays such as caroling, taking a drive to see your town’s holiday lights, watching a favorite holiday movie, spending time with friends, and volunteering to wrap gifts or participate in other religious or charitable events. Even something as simple as sipping hot cocoa by the fire can make the holidays feel special.

Pick quality over quantity. Many people feel that the number of gifts is important, but that mentality could cause you to waste money on things that won’t last past the New Year. A restricted budget requires you to make thoughtful choices. Remember that one treasured gift is worth more than five less-than-great gifts.

Have fun. If you’re worried that the kids won’t have enough to unwrap, gift wrap needed everyday items like new toothbrushes and slippers. Eat candy canes before breakfast. Putting a Santa hat on a (patient) pet is sure to be rewarded with giggles. After all, the holidays are supposed to be fun!

Give them some control. Let the kids decide what the family will have for breakfast Christmas morning or choose an afternoon board game. Giving children control lets them know that you respect their opinions and that is a wonderful gift in and of itself.

Finally, make sure to examine your own attitudes about money and resolve not to feel guilty for not giving your children everything they want. Instead, be proud that you are teaching them a valuable lesson about money management that will benefit them for a lifetime.


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'Tis the season for ... cyber threats

How to stay safe when doing your holiday shopping online

The Monday after Thanksgiving is known as "Cyber Monday" – traditionally one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.

In fact, The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports 42 percent of Americans plan to shop online this season.

Unfortunately, just as shoppers hit the Internet to search for deals, cybercriminals are trolling the Web for their next victim. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), November and December are the months when the majority of online identity theft problems occur.

And, a significant increase in malicious shopping Web sites are launched between October and December, according to Webroot, an antivirus and antispyware software company.

Practice safe online techniques this holiday season. Protect your personal information and make the most of your cyber shopping experience with these online safety tips offered by the financial educators at Money Management International (MMI):

Think before you click. Never click links to unfamiliar websites. If you use a search engine to find gifts, treat every result with caution – especially the ones promising a link to an unbelievable deal.

Install Security Software. At a minimum, protect your PC with up-to-date security software and antivirus protection.

Know the retailer. If you are unfamiliar with the retailer you want to purchase from, look for more information about the company by contacting the Better Business Bureau.

Monitor your credit report. It is important to monitor your credit report on a regular basis to quickly spot anything unusual or suspicious. Visit for one free annual credit report from each of the three bureaus.

Keep your password safe. Never reveal your password to anyone. When selecting a password, do not use commonly known information, such as your birth date or driver's license number. The best passwords are hard to guess and have at least eight characters and include numbers and letters.

Finally, only make purchases from secure websites. The easiest way to tell if a site is secure is to look at the web address on the page where you’re entering your financial information. Secured websites start with “https:” instead of “http:.”

For more tips on how to stay safe while shopping online, visit the FTC’s “Fight Back Against Identity Theft” website.

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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
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