How I'm Staying on Top of My Finances (and Not Becoming a Grinch) This Holiday Season

by Stacy Tharp 20. November 2012

Year after year I go through the same cycle of emotions during the holiday season. Right around Thanksgiving I start to get really excited about the holidays. This is the time of year that I think I LOVE giving gifts to my family and friends. These are the people that I can't live without, so I just want to shower them with gifts!

Fast forward a few weeks. All of my generosity has been replaced with misery. After spending all of my income on gifts, decorations, charitable donations, etc., I find myself sitting at home eating Ramen Noodles (because that's all I can afford) in the dark (because I am trying to save every penny I can, including on the electric bill).

It's around this time that I begin to realize that I HATE gift giving, and I turn into a Holiday Grinch. I get sick of hearing the same Christmas songs over and over again, tired of the Christmas movie marathons, and annoyed with all of the holiday traffic on the way to the store when I'm hungry and out of Ramen Noodles.

This year I started thinking ahead, and I decided it would be a good idea to try to break the cycle! Using 1st Mariner Bank's personal finance management tool, Mariner360, I created a budget specifically for the holidays that I am determined to stick to so I will be able to actually enjoy this wonderfully festive time of year!

I've decided to begin the gift giving season by giving you a tutorial on how I created my budget to make it easy for you to set up yours! This should surely keep us all in check this holiday season!

Step 1:

Sign into your 1st Mariner Bank Online Banking account (or click here to enroll), then click on the "Mariner360" tab. The great thing about Mariner360 is that it allows you to add all of your accounts from any financial institution, so you can monitor all of your accounts, not just your 1st Mariner accounts, in one place. If you have not yet used Mariner360 within the newly enhanced Online Banking platform, you will be required to enroll. It only takes a few minutes to enroll and add all of your accounts. Once you are enrolled, your Mariner360 Dashboard should look something like this:

Mariner360 Dashboard

Step 2:

The first thing we are going to do is create new spending categories specifically for the holidays. Click on the "Transactions" tab. This should give you a list of all of your recent transactions from all of your accounts. Click on any of the transactions from this list, it doesn't matter which one. I simply clicked on the first transaction listed:

Mariner360 Transactions

Step 3:

A screen should pop up called "Transaction Details." Click on the "Add/Edit Your Categories" button on the bottom left corner of the pop up window:

Mariner360 Transaction Details

Step 4:

Now you will see a list of all of the categories that Mariner360 provides for you. I chose to put my holiday related items as a sub-category of the "Miscellaneous Expenses" category. Click on the category for which you would like to create a new sub-category, then click "Add New Subcategory."

Mariner360 Holiday Budgeting Categories

Step 5:

You can create as many sub-categories as you'd like. I added two: "Holiday Gifts" to track how much I spend on presents, and "Holiday Party" to track how much I spend on the holiday party I am having this year. For each sub-category you create, you must click on the "Save" icon to the right of the text box:

Mariner360 Holiday Budgeting Categories

Step 6:

Once you have created and saved all of your new sub-categories, click "Continue" and you will be taken back to the "Transaction Details" screen. Let's say this transaction that I clicked on, categorized as "Home Improvement, Repair & Maintenance," was actually a gift for my handy brother. I could re-categorize this as "Holiday Gifts" by selecting that category from the drop-down menu.

Mariner360 Holiday Budgeting Categories

Step 7:

After properly categorizing all of the holiday-related transactions that you have made so far, you can head over to the "Budgets" tab on the top menu. If you do not have any budgets currently set up, your screen will look something like this:

Mariner360 Create a Holiday Budget

Step 8:

Click on "Add New Budget," then you will be prompted to select a category and budget amount. This amount is your total spend goal in this category that you do not wish to exceed. Once you have selected a category and budget amount, hit "Save."

Mariner360 Create a Holiday Budget

Step 9:

Create a new budget for each holiday-related category that you created. Since I have two categories, my budget looks like this:

Mariner360 Holiday Budget

The top bar shows all of your budgets combined, and underneath you can see how you are doing with each individual budget. I love this feature because if I find that I have over-budgeted for gifts, I can splurge for my holiday party, and vice versa. Note that these budgets are set up as monthly budgets. If you are an early shopper like me and tend to start your shopping in November, you should subtract the amount that you have spent in November, and the difference would be your December budgeted amount.

I hope you found my tutorial useful. Holiday spending is just one of the many useful tasks Mariner360 can help you with. Here's to hoping Mariner360 will keep me from becoming a Holiday Grinch this year!


If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

How to Keep Your Wallet Stuffed This Thanksgiving

Traveling Tips: Keep the Costs Low and the Fun Level High

2nd Annual 5 Things We're Thankful For This Holiday Season

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