- It is getting to be that time of year again; the winter holiday catalogues and holiday decorations are making an appearance. So…..I am going to start the discussion on holiday spending.
The holidays are really about spending time with family and friends right? Important aspects are holiday cheer, goodwill and giving to others. Here is my question – does giving to others really have to mean spending yourself into debt? Or is there a better approach?
Is it time to re-think holiday spending that may be keeping you from reaching your financial goals? If it took way too long to pay off last year’s holiday spending, or you had financial goals that were delayed or unmet because of the cost of last year’s holiday, here are some things to consider this holiday season:
- People will remember the time you spent with them and the fun things you did together more than they will remember what you gave them or how much you spent! Fun times can be free and low cost community activities, games, arts and crafts, baking, teaching someone a skill, etc.
- Make a big financial decision before heading out to do any holiday shopping – how much can you afford for the overall holiday – gifts, decorations, holiday food, eating out, etc? When you set your spending limit, try to choose a figure that will not create any debt that needs to be paid off after January. You up for the challenge? You can use the holiday spending planner at: http://extension.missouri.edu/wfes/savingandspending.aspx to help you implement your plan. This planner also has great ideas for inexpensive gift giving. Another alternative for keeping track are holiday spending phone apps such as Santa’s Bag. (See https://redgiftroad.com/ for more info on the Santa’s Bag app.)
- Limiting your spending on the holidays can lead to some tough but important conversations. Your family may have been doing things the same way for years and you may be asking for a change in order to keep your finances on track. What I often find, though, is that many people want to cut back on gift giving outside of their immediate family (spouse and kids) – but someone just needs to make the first move. Even in your immediate family, consider changing the emphasis from buying lots of meaningless gifts that end up in the back of the closet or are rarely used, to buying just a few (or one) higher quality purchases. Place more emphasis on spending time together.
- Ideas people have implemented to reduce the emphasis on gift giving to family and friends: a.) Pick a name gift exchange with a dollar limit ($10-$15) – this way each person gets one gift to open; b.) Giving gifts only to young children – no teens or adults; c.) Have a cookie exchange instead of gift giving; d.) Eliminate competition, and purchasing things people may not want or use anyway, by not exchanging gifts with anyone that is not your spouse, child or grandchild; or e. Share your ideas….. I would love to hear what you have done to reduce gift giving expenses.
- What many family members and friends really need is something you can do for them. Consider giving coupons for your skills, talents, hobbies, or even just your time. Can you take a great family photo for a sibling or friend? Can you help your parent with things they need done around the house – gardening, home maintenance (lightbulbs, clocks, garage cleanup,etc.)? Can you teach someone to bake, scrapbook, or help them organize their stuff? There are many great ideas available on the Internet.