As the holidays approach, you're in a bit of a bind: Consumers are in a spending mood this year, with plans to fork out 4.1% more than they did during the last holiday season. That puts the expected spend at over $1,000 per shopper, according to the National Retail Federation.
Your clients come to you because they want you to help them be smart with their money for the future. Part of your job is to help them live well today, too. We all want to buy gifts without feeling strapped, to entertain without feeling burdened, and, simply, to enjoy our lives and share what we can with those we love.
For some clients, that means having a conversation about what they do have. Some people need a reminder that it's okay to spend their money. (We’re looking at you, Great Aunt Hildy, and your $10 birthday checks.)
But you probably have other clients who plan to go well above that $1,000 average spend—whether they can afford to or not.
That's where conversations can get tricky. You certainly don't want to be Scrooge, but the holidays are a time when spending can easily get out of control.
Here are six conversation starters you can use to help determine your clients' habits this holiday season, and guide them in a direction that will start the New Year off right (financially anyway… dealing with that food coma is up to them).
Clients can create a list of people (and pets) they plan to buy gifts for, including a budget for each person. That will help keep gift spending within reason. A list also shows them how much they spend, which may surprise many people. But a budget isn't written in stone. Encourage them to keep a line item for those last-minute gifts they forgot about. Even doing this after the fact can be a helpful lesson to be mindful of gift purchases on the future.
Is your client proactive in their shopping throughout the year? If they see the perfect sweater for a friend or a sale, or the drone their kids want, do they them throughout the year and stash them away until the time is right? The trick here: Buy only for people on the list they created. Otherwise they'll end up with a closet that looks like an Amazon warehouse.
Many stores have loyalty programs, but this is a time to think outside the gift box as well. Airlines will often let you transfer miles so clients can fly family members in for the holidays—and make that their gift to them. Your client may have also bought items throughout the year that they planned on returning at some point. What better time than now? They might not get the money back, but those store credits can come in handy.
When it comes to sales, this old saying couldn’t be truer: “You go broke saving money.” Travel sites are notorious for false sales: They sell hotel "deals," but when you compare the price to the hotel site, it's only a few dollars less expensive. The drawback? Many travel sites have stricter cancelation fees than if you book directly through the hotel or car rental agency. Similarly, coupon sites may appear to have a great bargain, which can easily entice ill-advised purchasers. Always check the bargains against the original sites to see if the deal is really a steal.
Subscriptions are the ultimate gifts that keep on giving—and they are often reasonably priced. From traditional magazines to personalized makeup boxes to pet toys to international snacks or beers, there’s a perfect gift subscription for everyone. If they want to support those in their life that are more health conscious, they can prepay a gym membership, yoga or other fitness classes, or spa/sauna sessions. Your clients can feel like they are giving a "big" ongoing gift without breaking the bank. (Yes, a subscription to Everplans does count as a very thoughtful gift!)
Not everyone plans ahead as far as we'd like, and sometimes the gifts we want to buy just aren't available. While online shopping has made it much easier, even then shipping dates aren’t prone to delays. To this end, there's a reason gift cards are the ultimate multipurpose gift. They're more personal than cash and give the recipient the chance to splurge at a store they already like ("You know I love Whole Foods"). Plus, you can buy them at any 24-hour drug store, meaning they can literally wait until the last minute.
You know your clients best, and you know which clients need a gentle reminder about reining in holiday spending.
Finding the right conversation starter can open the door to learning more about your clients' lives. You'll not only help them save during the holidays, but you'll also learn what to offer in the coming year.