There’s no shortage of nutrition and exercise tips to help you keep your waistline intact during the holidays. But what about your wallet? While this time of the year is supposed to be full of family gatherings, tasty feasts, and tidings of comfort and joy, financial worries can sometimes get in the way and leave us feeling stressed, long after all the festivities have come and gone.
All that added stress can have a devastating impact on your well-being if you let things get out of hand, which is all too easy to do. According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, holiday spending is expected to increase by 4 percent this year, with the average holiday shopper planning to spend $935.58 on gifts. While that may be music to the ears of retailers and credit card companies around the nation, it’s bad news for those of us looking to minimize financial stress during the most wonderful time of the year.
So, with that in mind, here are a few quick tips to help you survive the holiday season with your finances in good shape.
Get Organized: It’s easy to overspend when you don’t have a game plan. Instead, do what Santa does and make a list. Decide on a spending budget for gifts, decorations, gatherings, travel, and any other holiday expenses you can think of. Then check it against your finances, and adjust if necessary. There are a number of tools that can help you with this. I recommend trying out a simple budgeting calculator to help you get started.
Make Peace With Your Limitations: The holidays are a time for giving and generosity. But that doesn’t mean you have to go broke attending every single holiday party, buying extravagant gifts for everyone, and sending out holiday cards to your entire Facebook friends list. Instead, make an effort to stick to your budget and prioritize your plans around the people you care about the most.
Don’t Mistake Generosity for Thoughtfulness: Most holiday celebrations include some type of gift giving. While it may be tempting to go all-out and shower your loved ones in expensive gifts, it’s important to remember that it’s the thought that counts. Instead of spending more money than you have, choose to give meaningful and thoughtful gifts rather than expensive ones.
Choose Your Payment Method Wisely: The best way to avoid crazy amounts of debt during the holidays is to pay with cash or a debit card instead of a credit card. If you have to whip out the credit card, use a low-interest card and pay that sucker off ASAP. Holiday bills can crimp your style throughout the year if you gather too much debt during this time.
Stop Competing: Oftentimes, we focus too much on what other people think. We see our neighbor put up an impressive display of lights, and feel compelled to outdo them. The family is in town and we feel like we have to create a “perfect” holiday for them. It’s easy to overspend when you’re trying to compete, whether it’s with other people or your own expectations. Let all of that go and focus on enjoying this time with your family and friends instead. This season only comes around once a year; enjoy it.
When you kick back and think about your favorite holiday memories, I’m willing to bet those memories don’t revolve around chaotic shopping sprees and expensive gifts. Instead, it’s the time spent with family and friends that makes this time of year so special. Memories like that can’t be purchased. So keep that in mind, and get into the holiday spirit without focusing too much on material things and overspending.