Tired of how early the holiday shopping season starts? This year, make a statement: vote with your dollar and put your money to better use than joining the shopping frenzy on Black Friday.
You’ll avoid the crowds (and the consumer culture!), have more time to spend with your loved ones, and build a better financial situation all at once. If you’re not sure what to do with your money instead, let us get you started with these suggestions for putting your dollars in a few other places.
Look at Your Retirement Accounts
Take a look at your 401(k) plans, traditional or Roth IRAs — whatever retirement account you have, pull it up and check out the balance. Are you on track to maxing it out? Here’s a quick guide on contribution limits for 2015:
- You can contribute up to $18,000 to accounts including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, Thrift Savings Plans, and most 457 plans. If you’re over 50, you’re eligible for catch-up contributions and may put in up to $24,000.
- Traditional and Roth IRAs have a $5,500 contribution limit. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute $6,500.
If you need to catch up, you have time! Make an extra contribution and build your wealth — and financial security. (On track with your retirement goals? Throw some extra money into your emergency fund instead!)
Give to Others in Need
While it’s fun to shop for gifts for your friends and family, they, like you, probably have most of what they truly need. This year, why not allocate some of your shopping budget to your favorite charity?
You can make a cash donation, or you can work with organizations like Heifer International. With Heifer, your money can go toward purchasing something tangible for communities in need — and you can do so in the name of a friend or family member for their holiday gift, too. For example, you can “give” something like goats or cows. Or you can fund a project, like digging a well.
When you purchase something from the gift catalog, you can do so in honor of someone else — and they’ll get a lovely holiday card sharing what they gave to a community who will put this gift to excellent use.
Invest in Yourself
It’s really hard to hit the mall and all your favorite stores while shopping for others during the holidays — and not bring home a little something for yourself. After all, Black Friday does feature some great deals for savvy shoppers.
But instead of funneling your money to material possessions, consider how you can invest in yourself instead. This is a separate conversation from the investments you can do with your retirement plans and brokerage accounts. You can also invest in your knowledge, skills, and happiness.
Is there a hobby you want to pick up? How about an ability you have that you want to further develop? Or is there a skill you want to learn but aren’t sure where to start?
It may cost money to get involved with these things, but it’s okay to put money in your budget to invest in bettering yourself as a person or adding to what you know and can do.
If you want to learn a new skill but can’t afford traditional higher education, search out courses on Skillshare or Udemy. And don’t forget about YouTube! There are a number of tutorials there, and these videos are completely free.
If you want to engage in a new hobby and need lessons or training, wrap that into your budget — or consider if you can barter with an instructor or trainer. Can you offer them help with their business in some way in exchange for lessons? (One of our team members, for example, writes articles for her gym’s newsletter in exchange for a spot in a group class.)
Know that it’s okay to spend that money on yourself in this way — and it’s much more productive than spending money on Black Friday shopping.
Think about your values and what’s important to you this year. For most of us, Black Friday craziness is not high on our personal values list (which, instead, probably includes things like Family, Community, Growth, Happiness, or Wisdom). So instead of joining the crowds, consider using your money in a better way.
How do you want to put your dollars to use this year?
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