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For many people, along with holiday cheer and excitement, comes the stress of time and finances, and the burden of debt. With the holidays come a dizzying array of demands – everything from shopping, to parties, baking, cleaning, and entertaining, just to name a few. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to give in to the stress, anxiety, and pressure of the season.

There are several pitfalls that come with the holidays, but you are going to learn how you can not only avoid those pitfalls, but continue to make money, pay off debt, lose weight, and accomplish your goals in a time when everyone else is doing the exact opposite.

My friend, a want without a plan gets you nowhere. And I know you don’t want to increase your debt during the holidays. I know you don’t want to increase your stress. I know you want to accomplish your goals. But if you’re serious about sticking to your goals, saving money, paying off debt, and finishing this year out strong, you must have a plan.

There are two kinds of people going into this holiday season: There are those who will get caught up in all of the shopping, cooking, entertaining, traveling, and stress that comes with the season. Those are the ones who will be going further into debt, spending more money, and simply coasting through the end of the year. And then there are those who will be focused on strategically positioning themselves to fatten their wallets, decrease their debt, achieve their personal and business goals, and helping others to do the same.

Those are the same 2 populations we find everywhere else. 98% of the population will be dead or dead broke by the age of 65, depending on their family, friends, or the federal government as their main source of income. 2% of the population is doing well financially.

The best way to become part of the 2%the ones who are going into this holiday season, focused on making more money, paying off their debt, and reaching their goalsis to find out what everyone else is doing, and to do the exact opposite.

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So let’s look at what 98% of the population is doing, and see what we can do differently:

DON’T go to Black Friday!

98%ers are going shopping on Black Friday because they think they’re going to save money. In fact, USA Today reported that about 51% of consumers plan to go holiday shopping on Black Friday this year. But what they don’t realize is that sales are nothing more than a scam – a setup – to get you to spend more money. You’re spending more money and even going further into debt, buying things for other people (and for yourself), not because you need those things, and not even because you necessarily want those things, but because it’s on sale. And who taught you to shop at sales, anyway? The media, marketers, grocery stores, department stores – the ones taking your money! Sales make you feel like you’re saving money, but the bottom line is this: You can’t save money by spending it. You save money by not spending it! But if you do decide to go shopping this Black Friday, I hope you hear me in your head, screaming "STEP AWAY FROM THE SALES!"

DO save money and pay off debt!

You can save money by not spending it at all the big holiday sales. When you don’t spend all your money at the sales, you’re going to find a lot of cash lying around that you didn’t even know you had! The reality is, it’s not just about Black Friday. It’s about habits. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you’re going to get the same results. Instead, take that extra cash and put it towards your debt. Put it towards something that will actually help you reach your financial goals, your business goals, your career goals, your family goals. I know what you’re thinking… ‘Oh come on, that’s no fun!’ Seriously?! Uh, hello! Do you know how much fun it’s going to be when you start paying off debt? It’s a total rush! Imagine the feeling of total freedom… There’s nothing like it!

DON’T buy out of obligation!

98%ers are going to buy gifts for their family and friends, just because that’s what is expected during this time of year. But please tell me, why is it necessary to buy gifts for people who don’t need anything, anyway? What good is another gift that will just go on a shelf, in a box in the garage, or in next year’s garage sale? But 98%ers are afraid of what people will think if they don’t buy a gift. Or they’re buying gifts for people just because they know the other person will buy them something. But gifts bought out of obligation is not a good use of your money!

DO put purpose to money!

Choose to do something meaningful during this holiday season. For example, take the money you would have spent on Christmas gifts for those who do not need anything, and bless a family who is truly in need. Bless them with food and clothes. Pay their electric bill. Just show up unannounced and bless someone who is truly in need. This will not only bless the recipient of the gifts, but it will bless you and your family more than you thought possible!

DON’T just coast through the rest of the year!

The 98%ers will be the ones so caught up in the holiday craziness, they will quit focusing on their goals. They will just go with the flow and let time slip away. And they will find themselves on January 1st in the same place they were in last year. “I fell off the wagon halfway through the year, so I’m gonna wait until January.” It’s like the diet that starts on Monday – you can’t do that with years!

DO reevaluate the goals you set last January!

Remember that list of goals you made back in January? Where are you on that list? Have you made progress? Have you reached some of your goals? Are you on track to accomplish those goals before the end of the year? It’s not too late to get back on track! You still have time – the year is not over yet! Instead of just coasting through the rest of the year, find 2 goals on that list and focus on accomplishing them. You will feel better about yourself, and you will finish the year strong.

DON’T let the stress of the season make you forget what it’s all about!

This time of year is generally very fast and furious. Between the shopping, parties, financial issues, family issues, and the general busy feeling of the season, there is a lot of stress. 98%ers will get caught up in the stress and forget what the season is supposed to be about.

DO slow down and take time to remember what this time is about!

Take time to reflect on the year. Celebrate your accomplishments. Take time to be thankful for the people and the opportunities you have in your life. Use this time to teach your kids to be grateful. Teach them to use what they have to bless others who are in need. Sit down with your family and reflect on the past year. Discuss where you want to go and what you want to accomplish in the next year.

So which population will you be a part of this holiday season? Will you be part of the 98%, who will finish out the year broke, stressed out, and in the same place (or worse) than they started the year? Or will you be part of the 2%, who will be focused on making more money, paying off debt, achieving their goals, and helping others to do the same?

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