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'I fully understand how creating the perfect holiday can take its toll on your budget.'

There is nothing better than waking up on Christmas morning with coffee in hand, breakfast in the oven and presents under the tree.

The holiday season is my favorite time of the year. While it certainly can bring a lot of joy, it can also bring a lot of stress if you are not careful.

I come from a large family that loves the holidays, so I fully understand how creating the perfect holiday can take its toll on your budget. As the branch manager of OnPoint Community Credit Union Orenco Station, I counsel members, often recounting my own experiences, on creative ways to celebrate the season that won't break their budget:

1. Plan ahead. Plan and review your holiday gift, entertainment, meal, and travel budget as early in the year as possible. Save your receipts from the prior year's holiday season and add up what you spent to establish a budget for the next year. Adjust as necessary if you feel that you overspent. Break that amount up by 12 months or by pay period. OnPoint offers an automatic transfer program that allows you to automatically transfer a set amount from your checking account to your savings account earmarked for holiday expenses. You will hardly notice the missing funds, and you will thank yourself when you begin your holiday shopping.

2. Explore gift exchange alternatives. As I mentioned before, I have a very large family. For many years, each of us would purchase gifts for every single member of the family. Once we got up to 17 children, it became completely unmanageable. We began drawing names for the children's gift exchange and doing a "white elephant" gift exchange for the adults. It has allowed us to focus on that one special gift for each child and have a lot more fun as adults.

3. Buy décor in the offseason. I love decorating for the holidays but I don't love paying full price, so I buy all my holiday décor in the days and weeks after Christmas when it is deeply discounted.

4. Share responsibilities. We all take a turn hosting Christmas dinner each year so the financial responsibility and hard work doesn't fall to one family. The host provides the main course and the rest of us bring the appetizers, side dishes and beverages. It's fun to try each family's contribution, and it makes it much easier on the host.

5. Get creative with big purchases. If you know you are going to gift a big-ticket item, buy a gift card earlier in the year, add funds in small increments, and then purchase the gift once you've added the full balance. It makes it harder to spend the money beforehand, and it eases the burden of having to dole out a large lump sum at one time.

My final tip for you is to keep a good perspective on the true reason for the season. The holidays are a time to be near loved ones, share traditions and express gratitude. Keeping this in mind can help curb the stress of spending money you may not have to create the perfect holiday.

OnPoint offers many tools tailored to individual habits that can help you attain financial well-being. Go online to learn more or come on into the Orenco Station Branch, and I would be happy to answer all your questions. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Sandy Kurkowski is branch manager of OnPoint Community Credit Union at Orenco Station in Hillsboro.


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