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Savings Tips

16.12.2010How To Avoid Overspending At Christmas

The best gift you can give your family is often sound finances for the New Year.


By Forbes.com

The best gift you can give your family is often sound finances for the New Year.

Unemployment is high this year, and savings accounts are low. But that won't stop people from filling shopping carts with gifts this Christmas. With shopping a firmly entrenched holiday tradition, the average household will spend $715 this season--even if for some it's spending they can ill afford.

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The reason so many people fail to show it is the intense social pressure to go out and spend at this time of year. Plus the legion of ways people use to justify overspending. That's according to Shawn Young, creator of Bootstraps Asset Building Education, an organization that uses elements of behavioural economics to teach average Americans how to better handle their finances.

In his previous career as a manager at Wal-Mart and Starbucks, Young, now 41, saw many colleagues become so overwhelmed by financial troubles that it distracted them from their work. The stories led to Young developing an interest in financial education. In 2007 he moved to Louiseville, Colorado, and founded Advocates for Young Adults, a non-profit which has since been renamed Frontier Asset Building. It has five employees, a $300,000 budget and, says Young, helped 10,000 people in 2010 through its various programs.

One is a class on spending. In it, Young works primarily with people who have low and moderates incomes and are at risk of overspending in ways that can have devastating effects on their finances. If a student in one of his classes overspends at Christmas, that student might have trouble paying the January electricity bill. People of greater means rationalise excessive spending in similar ways but generally face less devastating consequences, Young says.

Temptations are so great leading up to Christmas that some of Young's students this year suggested he offer a class addressing the season's shopping. While Young ponders the idea, he suggests others slow down while hitting the malls.

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