When I was a little girl, I can remember waking up on Christmas morning to mounds of gifts under the tree, overstuffed stocking hanging by the fireplace, and the entire living room would be packed with more holiday cheer than you can shake a stick at. I would unwrap my stocking, pulling out treat after toy, then wait for my mom to wake up for our big Christmas breakfast. We’d always have a special meal with family and friends, then head back to the living room to open gifts, watch Christmas specials, and enjoy time together before packing up and spending the rest of the day preparing our holiday dinner.
These traditions are so vivid in my mind and while I can remember absolutely loving Christmas — I still do, in fact — I can also remember my teen years when I realized just what a stress the holidays put on my mother and the fact that she easily took on thousands in debt each year to bring about this sort of magic for her family. When it dawned on me, as a young teen, just how financially unsound this all was, I felt guilty and frustrated. I knew then that I would never practice the holiday season as a time of excess.
When my own daughter was born, nearly 7 years ago, I promised myself that we’d always be smart about our holiday spending. Each year, there are a few things we do to keep our family in financial control, during a season when it would very easy to max out the credit cards, falling far down the debt rabbithole. That’s NOT what the holidays are all about and that’s what I want to help you and your family avoid!
Also read: 4 Tips to Avoid Holiday Overspending>
How To Stay In Financial Control This Holiday Season
Plan It Out: Start by making a list of people you’ll be buying or making gifts for this year, along with ideas for what you might like to include as their present. Planning out your list means that you won’t end up forgetting someone — leading to last minute panic purchases — and you’ll be able to set out a budget for each person or family before setting out to do your shopping. For instance, if I know I want to get my brother a boxset of his favourite TV show, I’ll mark that down, along with the estimated price. Do this for each person/family. Now you have a number to work with — decide if this number is doable, and adjust otherwise.
Start Early: We’re more than mid-way through October right now, but it’s not too late to start early! Shopping before the pre-holiday rush is the best way to ensure that you’re not falling victim to impulse purchases which are rarely needed and always cost more than if you’d done your research. Armed with your list from the previous tip, pick up items here and there as you see them — especially if they end up on sale — while you’re running other errands. You don’t need to do ALL of your holiday shopping in one trip. You can space it out which allows you to spot bargains, research pricing from store to store, and adjust your list as you go. If you and your spouse are sharing the holiday shopping duties, keep this list in a document that you can both access on your phones.
Get Creative In The Kitchen: You don’t have to BUY every single gift. Search Pinterest and Instagram to find fun, simple, and cost-effective holiday gifts for your friends and family. Baked goods go a long way this time of year! Visit your local bulk food shop to save on ingredients and do all of your baking in one afternoon to lessen the time and cost of making each treat. Cookies, chocolates, loaves, and candies are the perfect gifts for the holiday season. It’s also great to have an extra tin of cookies on hand for that unexpected guest, or as a hostess gift for that last-minute dinner party.
Also read: 5 Ways to Bake With Leftover Halloween Candy>
Focus On Experiences: It seems as though it’s expected that we load up on tangible gifts during the holiday season, but I think that focusing on experiences with your friends and family is just as important — if not more so. A trip to a special holiday venue or to see a play is a fantastic way to create memories, start traditions, and take the focus off of material goods this season. Bringing the focus from gifts to family and friends will benefit your family more than just financially. It will bring you closer together! This year, try a smaller number of gifts and an experience for the family — kids never need every present they get, and I bet not a single soul will complain! I hope these ideas help you and your family to take back control of your finances this holiday season! Once the stress of money is off your back, you’ll be able to ENJOY the holidays the way they were meant to be enjoyed. Relaxing, spending time with loved ones, and sipping egg nog by the fire. Yum!