This year, we’re encouraging more and more people to make different choices that will still ensure a wonderful holiday celebration, without having to pay for it over the next 5+ years. By budgeting and being conscious of spending, you’ll be able to ring in the new year with more cash, and in a better position to get out encumbering holiday debt that may have been accumulating over the years.
Pick a number, decide your budget, and stick to it.
We forget the small stuff. It’s all the little things that tend to get overlooked during the holiday season that can make our bank account overdrawn. Budget everything from postage for Christmas cards to holiday party favors and home decorations, to the cost of a pet-sitter if you’re traveling.
Commit to spending cash only.
Parting with cold hard moolah is a sure way to keep your finances in check. It’s hard to spend it when it’s in your hands. So, after you’ve decided your holiday budget, take the cash out, put it in a safe place, and then commit to only spending that allotted amount.
Make a core list for gift giving.
It’s fun to give and see people’s faces brighten up with smiles; however, stick with your core friends and family. Write down a list of people you’d like to buy a gift for, then critically consider who’s on your list, and trim it. Start with your immediate family and close friends, and selectively remove people that aren’t in your inner circle. For the people that didn’t make the final list, don’t worry, we have some suggestions below for as to how you can still GIVE them something special for the holidays.
Love yourself. Put your name on your gift-giving list.
Sounds counterintuitive but as they say on airplanes you have to secure your mask and give yourself some oxygen before trying to help the people around you. When we feel good it prevents us from making impulse decisions and keeps the personal balance sheet in check. And also, you’re worth it!
Ditch the flashy for meaningful.
We all know the saying -- it’s the little things that count. Sometimes we take those things for granted and put too much pressure on ourselves to give the perfect gift. Or we feel guilty if we don’t give someone exactly what they want. But what about what someone needs? Those little things aren’t necessarily “things” but actions you can take to make a loved one’s life a little bit easier. Give the gift of “help” or make something you know the person will love. People you love will remember gifts that helped them or one of a kind gifts that made them feel special that you took the time to create.
Ditch the holiday and go on vacation.
Most people have time off work and kids usually have time off of school, so the holidays are the perfect time to get away and seek out a new adventure. Holidays tend to not be as busy for cruises and resorts. They have fixed costs and they need to fill rooms, so you may get much more than you bargained for by investing in a short all-inclusive holiday vacation and actually enjoy your time with your friends and family versus stressing about it. Do your research, negotiate good deals, and leave the stress of your holiday routine behind.
Make a “toy list” for Santa.
Kids love toys, and more is always better. We also know toys lose their charm fast. So, keep the spirit and excitement of the season alive by setting a financial limit on toys. Have your kids make a list for Santa, and let them know Santa has so many kids to get gifts for, that they’ll get one toy from the list. Setting expectations early on will lead to fewer disappointments later.
Start a charity Secret Santa tradition.
The bigger the family the more stress this time of year can create for everyone. Instead of pulling numbers and giving gifts to each other; pick a charity where you all chip in to help others in need. Enjoy the holiday spirit, go decorate trees, or spend time as a family helping others. If you’d like to take it a step further, prohibit one another from giving each other gifts so that no one feels left out.
Make Christmas dinner a potluck.
We all love to have people over for the holidays but buying a full dinner for a house full of friends and family can get pricey. Embrace the idea of assigning everyone a dish. Send out an email to let everyone know what they are expected to bring, and let the festivities happen stress-free.
Sales. Sales. Sales.
This one is a no-brainer. If it isn’t on sale don’t buy it. The holidays are famous for deep discounts. It seems as though the sales are starting earlier and earlier every year, so if you plan ahead, you may be able to pick up popular items on sale early in the season versus having to risk missing out due to demand. Collect coupons and points throughout the year so that you can save as much as possible on items that may not get discounted due to popularity. Whatever you do, try not to pay full price for anything.
Just say no to credit cards.
Plastic is expensive. It seems like the easy way to handle holiday obligations because you don’t feel the impact at the moment. But, you’ll feel it in January and all year long. Think about how far ahead you’ll be in your budget goals if you are not also paying down holiday debt. Resist the temptation to use your credit cards, and when the holidays are over you’ll be happy with your decision.
Hit the malls alone.
People always love spending other people’s money. Shopping with friends fuels the extra temptation to get that little extra something that “looks fabulous on you” or “hey, this is what you really need.” Shopping with partners-in-crime can pull you off of your budget. So, remember the meaning of the season, stick to your list, stay focused on the reason for the season, and keep your cash- budget in check.