It’s that time again – the most wonderful time of the year! For many of us, though, it can be a time of stress, frustration, and financial uncertainty as we drive ourselves past our limits to try to make everyone happy and everything perfect.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
First of all, perfect – the type of perfect reserved for TV and movie holidays – is an unrealistic goal. Focus on what will make you happy while working within your means. One of the biggest seasonal stressors is spending too much on gifts, food, and home décor. While it may look beautiful and idyllic at the time, you may suffer buyer’s remorse in the New Year when the bills start rolling in.
The most important thing you can do to help curb holiday spending is to set a budget. Maybe you love to go all out for Christmas. Great! But if this is what you enjoy, you need to make a plan to save the money over the preceding months so it will be available to spend when the time comes. Spending money you cannot really afford to spend or overusing credit is a surefire way to increase debt and cause strife later.
The holidays should be about family, friends, and the joy of giving. It should not be a competition to see who can have the biggest, brightest, most fabulous home, gifts, etc. Retailers and the media may try to convince you – or more to the point, your kids – that you must have the latest this or the greatest that in order to make your holiday complete. But resist their messaging and stick to your financial guns!
Including children in any discussions about holiday spending is important. Let them know that you have only a certain amount of money to spend on gifts and help them understand the importance of sticking to your budget. While you may feel pressured to get everything on your child’s wish list, focusing on a few special items may help you stay within budget.
Cash and debit cards are the best ways to pay. If the money is coming directly out of your pocket, you may give each purchase a second thought. Use credit cards wisely. If you choose to purchase with credit in order to receive airline miles or rewards points, keep close track of your purchases and only charge as much as you can comfortably pay off in its entirety when the bill comes due. The last thing you need or want is to still be paying off this year’s holiday spending next year.
Some of the most meaningful and treasured gifts are those that come from the heart. Custom, handmade gifts really show a person you know them well and you care about them. One large gift for an entire family that everyone can enjoy can also save money over buying something for each individual. Many people also appreciate a donation in their name to a charity or cause that is near and dear to their hearts.
The holidays do not need to be stressful or break the bank. By adopting a few smart spending practices, you can enjoy the holidays without the added worry.
For more information about this topic, please read the UF/IFAS publication “Five Steps to Seasonal Savings” at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY140500.pdf.