Five Tips for Financially Surviving the Holiday Season

Here we are at the end of another year. Thanksgiving is over and the December holiday season will soon be upon us. For many people, that means throwing rational decision making out the window and buying gifts for all of their family, friends, and even bosses they want to suck up to. In fact, the National Retail Foundation estimates that the average consumer will spend just over $1,000 this holiday season on gifts, candy, decorations, and bits and bobs for themselves. Unless this spending was planned for well in advance, it will surely blow up anyone’s budget and lead to paying off the little tidings of joy well into 2019. Happy holidays, indeed.

With that merry thought rolling around in your head, you may be wondering what you can do to ensure you won’t be one of the 25% of people still paying off the things you bought last year. If that’s the case, consider this my gift to you.

  • Take it back. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday should be followed by Broke-A** Wednesday. If you’ve already gone overboard buying gifts for people this year, take some of the stuff back. I’m serious. Christmas is still weeks away and chances are good you still have the gift in a closet or under your bed. Find the receipt, take it back, and then consider giving them something less expensive. Or…
  • Get personal. You’re tight with your family and friends because of shared experiences, not the stuff you give each other. Sometimes you’re tight with friends and family in spite of what you give each other. Consider making your gift part of a bigger experience. Buy their annual fishing license and plan a couple of days together. Pay a registration fee for a 5k that you always run with them (work in some training time together, too). Buy them a ticket to a music festival you’ve both talked about attending. Gifts like these will foster the relationship in ways that a new pair of skinny pants can only dream of.
  • Know thy spending. Predetermine how much you want to spend this year. Then, either get that amount in cash (and spend only what you have available) or keep a running total of your spending as you make your purchases. Gamify the process if you need to using Price is Right rules. How close can you get your spending to your predetermined limit without going over? Did you go over? Oops! Take something back and find a new gift.
  • Pay it forward. Do you have nieces and nephews that you never seem to know what to buy? Then don’t. Make a contribution to their 529 college saving account instead. Sure, they may not appreciate it at the moment, but call them up 12 months after they graduate college and ask them what they think about it then. That’s a gift they’ll be thankful for.
  • Read their mind. Do you know an interest of the person you’d like to present a gift to? Great! Find a book for them to read on the topic. What’s that? Uncle Carl doesn’t read books, he just likes to hunt. Would he like a subscription to Field and Stream (it’s a magazine). He’s sure to think of you each month when the magazine shows up in his mailbox. Better yet, if you can give them a copy of a book you’ve previously read, you can discuss it later.

You don’t have to spend inordinate amounts of money during the holidays to let someone know they’re important to you. You should, however, spend time thinking about that person, your relationship with them, and your shared experiences. Then, let them know how grateful you are for the memories you share and for the memories you’ve yet to make with them. Exchange gifts (if necessary). Then, go about doing the stuff that brings you closer together. Just don’t feel obligated to make sure a big price tag is attached to it.


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