The most wonderful time of the year can also become the most anxious time of the year. Between purchasing gifts, buying a new outfit for each holiday party, and the increased electricity bills from the decorations, the holidays can become financially stressful. There is a lot of pressure to find a unique gift for each person while also being a dedicated host for the ultimate Christmas party. Pressure comes in all forms, from baking the best desserts, setting up the grandest Christmas lights show in the neighborhood, to the form of a gift disguised as how much you value an individual. This year, start with a plan and be intentional in all aspects so you don’t break your bank.
1. Set a budget. Consider your current bills- including groceries, rent, gas, utilities and the holiday bills- décor, increased usage in electricity and water if that is your case. Then create a list of people you are going to shop for with different ideas. Budget for each person and mentally prepare yourself so that you are not spending over your means. Make a habit to check your finances each day to be fully aware of your means, especially if you have to unexpectedly spend in areas you have not planned for.
2. Cutback on nonessential daily expenses. Do you usually grab a coffee on your way to work? Make coffee at home. Going to see the latest movies in theaters? Stay at home, make your own popcorn and enjoy a holiday movie with your loved ones in the comfort of your own home. Designate meal prep days and cutback on takeout food. This extra cash can make a difference.
3. Suggest a gift exchange. If you are exchanging gifts with a group, suggest a gift exchange where you pick a name and get a present for only that person. This takes the stress off buying gifts for several people and can help you stay within your budget more easily.
4. Plan an activity for the whole family. Planning takes quite some time and effort with a group, but the memories can last forever and you might not have to spend a single penny. You can drive around and look at Christmas lights while sipping on hot chocolate, go sledding down the big neighborhood hill, or compete in a gingerbread house contest.
5. When shopping, look online and shop early. Do not wait last minute- that will cost you! Shop early to find the best deals and check if the products you are looking for are available online. Sometimes, you may find items cheaper online and if free shipping is included, then that just saved you a trip to the store!
6. Use your points. Have you racked up a bunch of points on your store cards or credit cards? Check if the person on your gift list would appreciate something you can buy with your points.
7. Do you have any coupons? Depending on the website, you might be eligible for a discount if you are first-time customer or sign up for store emails. Check coupon and discount apps too, find coupons before you’re in line at the store.
8. Put more emphasis on activities rather than materials. Between the thousands of “perfect gift” messages out there, it is easy to forget what makes a lasting memory- enjoying time with your loved ones. Placing your phone down, and giving your family 100% of your attention is greater than any gift you can give.
By implementing these tips, you can alleviate a few of those monetary stressors and find greater value in time with your loved ones. Memories last a lifetime, but material items last for a limited time. Plan what you can financially and challenge yourself to stay within your means. Find your greatest source of comfort in knowing that your time and attention is greater than any gift you could purchase for your loved ones. This holiday focus on the present, not the presents.