The holidays can be a stressful time for many people. There’s a lot of pressure associated with decorating your home, planning family gatherings, and choosing the perfect gifts for family members, friends, coworkers, and other acquaintances. In addition, this tends to be a time of year when people embrace the spirit of giving, even if it means going into debt in the name of generosity. Somehow the season has become superseded by consumerism, but that’s not what the holidays are really about. Do you think your loved ones would allow you to overspend on their behalf if they knew you would have to suffer for months, struggling to pay down credit card debt? What makes the holiday season so special is that you get to share in the joy of being with family and friends, and in some cases celebrate significant religious or cultural traditions. It’s not all about spending money. And there are ways to get back to what the holidays are truly about, reducing your financial stress in the process.
- Draft a holiday budget. If you’re looking to keep yourself out of the hole this holiday season, the place to begin is by putting together a budget that reflects what you plan to do and how much money you have to work with, and then reconcile the two. You’ll want to include not only a list of intended gift recipients, but also lists detailing any family dinners or parties you’re hosting, any travel plans you may have, any decorations you intend to purchase, and other anticipated costs. From there you can begin to find ways to allocate funds and make your to-do lists match up with your budget.
- Get gifts for those who matter most. Your initial list of gift recipients could be pretty long, but when you really think about it, there are definitely bound to be people on your list that you’re not obligated to give gifts to, as well as those that simply won’t expect a gift. Your immediate family and closest friends will certainly be given top priority, but do you really need to give gifts to extended family, coworkers, neighbors, and your dentist or the guy who grooms your dog? If you really want to do something for these additional associates, consider baking some cookies or simply sending a holiday card expressing your best wishes.
- Give a gift from the heart. When your budget is tight, a good way to stretch every dollar is with homemade gifts. With the aid of online tutorials you can make soap, candles, and other popular home goods. Or you could create stationary sets, photo frames, or other personal crafts. And the holidays are an excellent time to whip up a few batches of your favorite cookies and other treats to give out to those you can’t afford individual gifts for.
- Make donations. It doesn’t take a list of personal finance blogs to figure out that donating money is a good way to get a tax write-off. But you’ll gain a lot of other benefits when you decide to donate to a worthy charity on behalf of your loved ones rather than giving gifts. On the financial front, you’ll be able to spend a precise dollar amount, helping you to stick to a budget. But you can also avoid the stresses of shopping for gifts. And you can give a gift that makes you and your loved ones feel good during the season of giving, as well as help those who are less fortunate than yourself, potentially ensuring a wonderful holiday for someone you’ve never even met.
- Host a potluck. There is no shortage of money management strategies to try in order to reduce your stress level this holiday season. But hosting a potluck will also save you some time when it comes to feeding the whole family, as well as allowing everyone to feel like they’re contributing something special to your holiday gathering. It’s a win no matter how you look at it.