Celebrating within your means

Celebrating within your means

This year’s holiday season is going to look a lot different for many of us. With COVID-19 concerns, some families will choose not to gather. And because of the pandemic, many are without jobs and facing dire financial situations.

Still, it is the holiday season and finding ways to celebrate will help lift your mood and help you recognize what you have to be thankful for.

One of the top holiday stressors is staying on budget. If you’re trying to figure out how to stretch your dollars and make this holiday special, you’re not alone. People are already planning to spend less this year than in previous years.

The pressure to spend is often driven by society. Those television commercials featuring the latest gadgets and friends on social media showing off their new devices can really make you feel like you need to do more, spend more to keep up.

Some people get stuck trying to recreate cherished family traditions and childhood memories. This year you may not have celebrations the way they have been done in the past and that’s okay. Things are most definitely different now. Don’t feel like you have to get the largest tree, buy the most extravagant gifts or even cook the large meals.

Having a happy holiday season doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. You can spend less (or nothing) and still show you care. Baked goods, handmade gifts, a card or even a phone call to someone you haven’t seen in a while are all ways of showing you care. But if you are planning to do some holiday shopping, these tips will help you stay on track financially.

  • Make a list of the people you plan to buy for. Go over the list twice and ask yourself if you really need to buy for each person or if there is an alternative way to show him or her you are thinking of them during the holiday.
  • Once you have the list complete, plan how much you are willing to spend for each gift. And then stick to that amount. It’s easier to do this if you leave your credit cards at home when you go out shopping. Take only the amount you plan to spend. If you do use credit cards, try to pay them off within 30 days to avoid paying additional interest charges.
  • Shop early for gifts. You won’t be facing the crowds and the items you are seeking are more likely to be in stock. Many top retailers are reimagining “Black Friday” because of the pandemic. Better yet, shop online if possible and pick up in person if you want to avoid shipping. There will be plenty of sales before the holidays this year. A gift card for a family dinner can turn out to be less expensive than individual gifts. A survey from Oracle Retail found that more people will be purchasing gift cards this year because they are more practical.
  • Focus on experiences over possessions. A night spent touring the city looking at Christmas lights with your children, topped off with cocoa and board games, will be remembered far longer than the newest techno gadget. These kinds of experiences have eternal value. Spending time together is the heart of the holiday.

The holidays also include a shift in schedules. With schools being transitional between remote and in person classes, chances are your schedules are already in a constant state of flux. Don’t get into the habit of staying up late and skimping on sleep. Now more than ever, you need to get your rest. When well rested you’ll make better decisions with holiday spending and beyond.

Remember, carving out time for yourself is also important this time of year. Find time to exercise even if it’s just a short walk around the block. Put the worries aside and do something for yourself this year like taking time to read, pray or write in a journal.