The tree’s decorated with twinkling lights, and the presents lie nestled in the wrapping. Your poor credit card though? It’s practically aflame next to the Yule log from overuse. This Christmas picture doesn’t sound altogether too merry, does it? Unfortunately, living in our consumer society, our holiday greetings come hand-in-hand with overspending. For too many of us, the echoes of shopping follow us well into the new year, accruing interest as a month after month of unpaid balances goes by. So how do we enjoy our holidays without derailing our financial goals? Here are three clever tips for how to survive your Christmas on a budget.
Christmas on a Budget Tip 1: Figure Out How Much You’re Willing to Spend
We’ve already discussed the importance of establishing a rock solid family budget. This financial tool not only helps you to accomplish your identified priorities but also to empower decision making throughout the month. December can be a tough month for expenses. But don’t let the overwhelm of spending derail you from practicing financial self-awareness.
All of those holiday gifts? Yep, they need to be tracked, too. Think about planning out your Christmas spending in advance. Consider all of your fixed expenses. Identify an amount to spend on holiday gift giving that won’t make your heart or wallet shudder.
Whether your total Christmas budget is $50 or $500, having a predetermined amount will help you keep your Christmas on a budget and your gift list within boundaries.
Christmas on a Budget Tip 2: Think Creatively
Figuring out what to buy my husband for Christmas is a hard job! In fact, the last two years running, I got him the SAME shirt. And he loved it both years!
This year, with our newly established financial priorities, he’s requested that I don’t spend any money on his Christmas present. How am I going to keep our Christmas on a budget and get him something anyway? I’m going to make him something amazing from both the craft room and the kitchen. That creative thinking? Not only will it save some cash, but it’ll also provide him reassurance that we’re sticking to our goals without compromising holiday merriment.
Also, my sister and I agreed that instead of spending our usual $100 to $200 on each other, we would save our pennies to splurge on a trip to see each other in the spring. Sure, we’ll be spending more money eventually, but by delaying the purchase, I’m able to spread discretionary expenses across multiple months and minimize the impact on the budget.
Christmas on a Budget Tip 3: Emphasize Priorities
Between the commercials, the catalogs, and the constant Christmas marketing, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we need to spend money to get into the holiday spirit. But does the amount of money we pay for someone’s gift show the degree of our love? Absolutely not. Or time, our compassion, our commitment — these are measures of love. So if you feel yourself getting taxed emotionally and financially by holiday expectations and obligations, create space for yourself to define and emphasize your unique priorities. Maybe you can sneak a letter under a loved one’s pillow on Christmas Eve. Or maybe you can do the dishes without being prompted. Maybe you can bite your tongue, just once, when a loved one is hanging over your head more urgently than mistletoe.
In the end, we get to define how we spend our holiday time and money in a way that leaves us feeling even richer come the new year. How will you spend yours?