The holiday season is here and while that means time with friends and family and lots of food and drinks, it can also mean: added financial stress. So that you don’t take the “season of giving” title a little too seriously, it’s time to break-down some of the biggest money do’s and don’ts that will definitely keep you on Santa’s Nice List while also helping to keep you sane.
How to Stay Financially Sane During the Holiday Season…
Don’t: Spend on Auto-Pilot
You were going to give Sarah a reasonably priced and sensible sweater but then you saw the glamorous bedding, and an elegant jacket that you just knew she would love so the sweater was quickly forgotten and while Sarah will be getting new bedding and a jacket, you got yourself a bigger bill. This tip is important to remember the entire year, avoid spending on auto-pilot; stay focused and stick to a list.
It’s easy to throw everything into the cart, especially for those adorable kids that you love so much. Fight the feeling to get them everything, and you’ll be very glad you did, come December 26th. Many people find themselves shocked after the holidays (and through-out the year) with how the seemingly small purchases add-up so quickly.
Do: Get to the Root of the Issue
Shopping can provide an instant feel-good rush that’s fun in the moment but the trouble comes when the spending “high” fades and the underlying feelings remain- un-touched and un-addressed. Get to the root of the problem (with professional help if needed) to find a true, long-lasting solution. Many companies provide free therapy sessions to employees through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Talk to your Human Resources department for the details. Also, if you find a persistent over-spending problem consider checking out a Debtor’s Anonymous meeting in your area.
Do: Create (and Stick to) “The Plan”
Whether it’s the holidays (or not) having a plan will make such a difference in your financial life. To make a “plan of attack” for your holiday shopping start by creating a list of everyone that you will be giving gifts to. From the people on the list start brainstorming about things that they have mentioned liking throughout the year. Ask yourself if they have any hobbies or curiosities? Your gift can help give them a push to start exploring their interests more. Think about how the gift will enrich the person’s life rather than simply being another object to take care of. Once you’ve completed the brainstorm process start narrowing down your ideas and start doing some online research to determine where the best deal will be.
Do: Set Limits
Have a talk with your family and friends about setting a limit on how much each of you will spend on each other (this works on other events throughout the year like Birthdays too). Before you arrange a time to talk with your family members (this is usually best to do individually) take a realistic look at your finances. If you just bought a house or just had to pay for your cat’s surgery you’re not going to have as much money as usual. If you can honestly only spare $100 total for holiday gifts divide that amount by the number of people on your list. It might mean everyone only gets up to a $10 gift. Approach the subject with your family and friends in a forthright and honest way to avoid hurt feelings when gifts are exchanged.
Do: “Recycle” Your gifts
Re-gifting gets a bad rap but if it’s done right you really can’t go wrong. Key tips: keep item in its original packaging; keep a re-gift bag (or box) that you fill up throughout the year with your unwanted gifts; keep track of who the gift is from, and don’t just give someone a random gift from your re-gift bag so you get the gift-giving credit. Really think about what the person would like and choose accordingly. Re-gifting already has a bad enough reputation so you’ve gotten to tread the “schmuck” line carefully.
Do: Make the Most of Gift Cards
If you get gift cards throughout the year, think ahead and instead of buying something for yourself, use the gift cards to start collecting gifts for your loved ones. The holiday shopping doesn’t have to just be in December. Spread out your spending throughout the year your accounts don’t suffer such a big blow in December.
Do: Remember that Memories are Free
Create memories with those you love. It can be as simple as putting down all the electronic devices for a few hours, giving undivided attention, and asking each other insightful questions. The holidays give us a break from the normal routines of life; take the opportunity to pause, and put your priorities back in their proper place. Trust me, the dishes and chores can wait!
How do you keep things together financially during the busy holiday season?
P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp!
These are great tips. My family has finally agreed for the first time to not give any grown-up gifts for Xmas this year, only kid gifts. And even those I’m setting a limit on. Our bank accounts will thank us in January!
I love that you don’t put down re-gifting. I have done that in the past where it has really worked. You only need to look at the number of thrift/antique/second hand stores around to realize that our world is full of too much stuff, thus I am a fan of re-gifting. This is a fantastic list.
My sister had the terrific idea of not giving presents to each other this year – this involves sisters, cousins, parents, aunt and uncle. Instead, we donate what we can to a charity we like, and she and niece will make Christmas decoration with the copy of the receipt. Only a present to niece (who is 4) is allowed – I bought it from UNICEF. I guess it’s a nice reminder of Christmas spirit – we have everything and don’t need more, instead we try to share what we can with someone who needs it. I guess when I’ll have my baby, I’ll try to teach her to donate one of her toys to a kid shelter for Christmas…
I also love that you mentioned re-gifting! Also a good idea on using gift cards for Holiday shopping… I have also in the past used gift cards I have won as gifts themselves. I work in a sales office where I win a couple a month and sometimes they are not for stores I frequent, but my loved ones may!
That spending on auto pilot can easily get the best of me so I write down what I plan to buy people and what I actually bought them so won’t buy too many gifts for a person. Also, I absolutely agree that memories last longer than most gifts so break out the board games!
We have made a family commitment this year to either make or buy thrift-store gifts. What a relief it is already …and I am having a blast making cool gifts that are, hopefully, thoughtful and specific.
I love the tip on regifting. Don’t just do it to get rid of gifts you don’t need – really think about whether or not the person receiving would actually appreciate it!
Last year I gave some books from my shelf in great condition that I knew the recipient would love. It worked out great!