‘Tis the season to think smart and be merry!

What do you look forward to the most this holiday season? A much-deserved vacation? Of course. The food and drinks? Positive. Your 13th month pay? Absolutely!

Admit it. The thought of getting an extra moolah just in time for Black Friday Sale can make you giggle like a high schooler who gets to hang out with her crush. But unlike her who can think all month long about her lucky day, you are, in fact, a grown-ass woman now who NEEDS to know just how to adult. Focused, responsible, and smart adult who wants to enjoy the season’s bounty of treats without the guilt.

But first things first. What is it exactly about getting a bonus that can give you butterflies and headaches at the same time?

It’s like winning the jackpot. We all know how wonderful it is to win something. But unlike such things which rely mainly on lady luck, your 13th month pay is so much more than that. It’s the prize for your hard work. The product of your blood and sweat. The fruit of your sacrifices. It may be part of the compensation and benefits package granted by your good company, but it is so much more than being entitled to these benefits. It’s your earned income. It is something that is in direct correlation with the amount of work you put in. Remember all the time you spent developing a business plan instead of sleeping? Or the every day commute amidst the horrible traffic just so you can offer your boss a warm cup of coffee before the two of you start your day? Ah, worth it! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

You’ve put in so much work, time, and effort. It will be a shame if you will just blow it on things of no value. You know better than to spend it on things that do not matter. It’s high time to think smart and do these 8 things instead with your extra cha-ching.

Pay off debt

It’s all fun and games until you realize that you have a lingering debt. According to studies, “about 45 million Americans now owe a stunning $1.6 trillion in student debt”. The number is one in three among millenials and you know very well how hard it is to be one with the former. Tackle your debt aggressively whether it’s student loans, credit card debt, or car loan with your bonus or 13th month pay. More so if the interest rate is high. Get rid of your loans as soon as you can, as fast as possible.

Beef up your retirement plans

Also known as SSS and friends. You’ve been putting money into those accounts, but it’s high time to increase those contributions. Do it consistently and don’t pass on a good opportunity to make the most of your 13th month pay.

The more the merrier!

You know you’re becoming a fully-fledged adult when you start to consider those life insurance plans. Go for it! Use a portion of your bonus to start planning for retirement. It’s never too early to prep up for your future and thus avoid the fear of not having enough funds and savings when you stop working.

Grow your emergency funds

In case you didn’t know, 60% percent of millennials couldn’t cope with a one thousand dollar crisis. Use your bonus to grow that amount. It pays to be prepared if and when the odds are not in your favor. Get ready for the rainy days, make it a point to tuck away 3-6 months’ worth of savings and protect yourself during emergencies.

Investments

If you want to build wealth or at least grow your funds – invest. It will not be a walk in the park, but now is the time to take a shot at it. Do your assignment. Do you have a friend who runs a franchise or a start-up business? Reach out, ask for tips, and discuss the possibilities. Do you love to cook and all the other aspects of food? Give home-based catering service a try on weekends for starters. Your 13th month pay can help you take that leap. Your goal here is to spread out your eggs in different baskets.

Change your life, invest in yourself

Any successful person would tell you to invest in yourself. A famous author once said, “Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. It will not only improve your life, but it will also improve the lives of all those around you.” It’s not a cliche. It’s actually something you have to take to heart. Think of your bonus as your ticket to success. Sign up for short courses that can boost your skills. Explore your creative side by starting a new hobby or learning a new language. Enroll to a gym or get back into a sport to nurture your mind and body. Buy some books and expand your knowledge. Put in the effort and do your best to improve the quality of your life now and in the future.

Don’t lose the fun

Work hard to play hard. Let your hair loose for being such a good girl and diligent with your budget and financial priorities. Whether it’s the watch you’ve been eyeing for months, the family vacation that’s on your bucket list, or a much-deserved expensive dinner, use some of your 13th month pay to simply enjoy yourself.

Give back

A true and tested way to multiply your happiness is to share it with others. Give to charity. Buy mom and dad a gift. Cook your specialties and share them with your neighbors. Surprise a fine old man (or woman) a new cane. Big or small, each act of giving is a unique happiness-inducing event. Experience more of it by using your blessings to bless others.

‘Tis the season to be merry BUT, do so without the guilt. You know what to do. Work. Think Smart. Repeat.