The Christmas season can be stressful as you try to do something special for your loved ones. Trying to chisel out a few extra dollars on a military budget can be a challenge. I know of two rules that, if followed, will always improve your chances!
Rule 1: Practice Self Control.
Self control is a virtue. When you think of the marketing and advertising dollars spent to entice you to spend your money, it is little wonder that so many people overextend themselves in the Christmas season.
Part of practicing self control is having a plan and sticking to it. And the next rule offers a great strategy for executing your plan.
Rule 2: Take a year-round approach.
Start thinking about the holidays early and spread out your holiday spending throughout the entire year. Many seasonal items, such as traditional Christmas ornaments, trimmings like wrapping paper, bows and Christmas cards, can be purchased at 70-80% of original price in after-Christmas sales.
Some large department stores offer layaway around the holidays, some as early as September. Start your Christmas shopping early by putting items in layaway and paying a portion of the total every month until Christmas. Stores sometimes charge a small fee for using a layaway service. Also, even though you have a few months to pay off the items, you still need to set and stick to your holiday budget. The goal of layaway is to make paying for gifts less of a burden, not to give you more time to overspend.
Do your research and to find out which stores have the latest deals on the items on your list. What has become known as Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is not the only time to save. This year’s online holiday sales are expected to top $2B. Retailers are discovering that they can offer deep discounts when the products are ordered online and come directly from the warehouse.
Another thing, don’t be afraid to ask for a military discount. Some stores put up signs advertising a military discount. But even if a sign is not posted, it never hurts to ask.
Help for Military Families in Need
Here are some programs and options available to military families in need. Maybe you know someone who could use a hand. Maybe you would like to lend a hand yourself.
- Salvation Army is a good place to start. Dropping in a few coins or a loose dollar or two is a bigger deal than you might think. Imagine hundreds or even thousands of like-minded people doing the same. A little bit multiplied by a great number adds up to a lot. Salvation Army makes a difference and the money is used locally.
- Full Circle Home gives deployed servicemen a chance to send a gift box to their wives back home. Gift boxes contain pampering items, such as lotions, bubble baths and spa socks. They also feature a handwritten note from the serviceman.
- Heroes at Home is a Sears-sponsored program that allows military families to apply for a Sears gift card to use to help with holiday shopping. Registration for the gift cards opens at the end of August and closes once 20,000 applications have been received. A select amount of registrants will be chosen to receive the gift cards, which vary based on the amount of donations received.
- Operation Holiday Joy is a donation campaign where 100% of your donation goes to food and toys this holiday season. You can designate your donation to a specific program.
- The Red Cross provides many military family services including but not limited to financial assistance and deployment services.
- Soldiers’ Angels sponsors Operation Outreach Holiday Support. Enlisted families can sign up to receive a $50-$100 gift card to help pay for a holiday meal and gifts for children ages 15 and under. Families must sign up for the program by December 15 and are matched with donors from around the United States.
- The U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year. You can donate or request a toy. Toys for Tots distributes those Christmas toys to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted. The program is for all children, including military kids.
- Thank Military Families sponsors an annual adopt-a-family program. Preference is given to families of deployed troops. Families are adopted by sponsors who send gifts or gift cards directly to them. Those who are not adopted may receive gift cards from the organization’s gift card donation program.
- Tree for Troops, sponsored by the Christmas Spirit Foundation, offers free Christmas trees for military families. Trees are available at 62 bases throughout the United States.
Have a Merry Christmas! Wherever you live there are local or regional resources that will know of seasonal area programs that offer gifts, discounts, and meals for military families.