The holidays are a joyful time of year, but unfortunately they can be very stressful for some people. The pressures of gift giving and keeping up with traditions can cause a lot of financial worry, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to minimize money woes this holiday.
For starters, you should get a sense of how much money you can spend. This should be a realistic number based on your finances, not one that you pull out of thin air. And remember that just because you have a certain amount of money doesn’t mean you have to spend all of it. Sometimes, less is more. And don’t even think about spending money that you don’t have. Even though credit cards make it extremely easy to spend beyond your means, you’ll pay for it later if you do. No one wants to be facing a mountain of debt once the New Year rolls around.
Once you’ve determined how much money is in your holiday fund, you should identify all of your holiday-related expenses. You should include everything you plan to spend money on during the season - gifts, decorations, Christmas cards, you name it! Once you have your expenses accounted for, you can decide how much of your holiday money you’d like to spend on each.
So what happens if it looks like your holiday money will be stretched too thin? What if you won’t have enough to cover all of your holiday expenses? The answer is… get creative! You’d be surprised how a little resourceful thinking can help you save big. Here’s a list of some ideas to help you cut down your holiday costs this season:
- Hunt for deals when you’re buying gifts. You’re probably getting a lot of catalogs in the mail this time of year. Instead of throwing them away, look through them for coupons or sales. If you’re shopping online, use websites like RetailMeNot.com to find promo codes and special offers that will bring down the cost of your purchases.
- Make your own gifts. You don’t have to be a crafting genius in order to make a special, meaningful gift. Whether it’s a collage of photos, a homemade ornament, or tasty treats that you bake in your own kitchen, DIY-gifts can be a great, thoughtful option. Websites like Pinterest can help with ideas, and sometimes even step-by-step instructions.
- Cut down on the number of gifts you’re giving. If you exchange gifts with friends, co-workers, or your extended family each year, try suggesting a Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa instead. They can be a ton of fun, and can bring the number of gifts you’re buying down significantly. If you and your spouse usually buy each other several gifts, you could suggest foregoing the gift exchange and planning a romantic home-cooked meal instead. If you attend a lot of holiday parties and usually bring a gift to each one, you could either cut back on the number of invitations you accept, or bring an inexpensive food item or bottle of wine instead.
- Host a potluck instead of an expensive holiday dinner. A lot of money goes into hosting a holiday dinner. There’s the appetizers, main course, side dishes, beverages, desserts, the list really adds up. Rather than bear the brunt of those costs on your own, suggest a holiday potluck instead where your guests can get in on the fun and the holiday spirit by bringing their favorite winter dishes, snacks, or drinks.
In the end, it’s important to remember that the holiday season isn’t about money. Reflecting on what the holiday means to you can help you overcome the financial pressures that accompany it, and find more meaningful ways to experience it. Spending time with family and friends, listening to holiday music, going to a church service – these are all ways that you can enjoy the season without racking up debt and stress. Happy Holidays!