Tis the season …for exuberance, generosity and joyful abandonment. It’s so very festive and fun, but oh so easy to get carried away with it all. And temptations to spend are everywhere you look. Deep discounts! Drastically reduced! Prices slashed! The more you buy the more you save! …. Or do you? It certainly doesn’t seem like it when the bills roll in come January … right around the time when you’re making those New Year’s resolutions, it seems. You know, the ones about getting on a budget and stopping the overspending?
So, what are some strategies that you can employ to obtain that simple peaceful holiday season and reign in the excess spending? The first thing you can do is pare down those lists. Of people to buy for, indulgences, activities, and, of course, presents to buy.
Well, now is the time to stop and think about that. Take a deep breath, have a cup of tea and sit down and contemplate a quieter, simpler, less hectic holiday season. One that you won’t regret when the new year rolls around. One that you’re not paying for until next August. Does that thought bring you joy? Do you feel your blood pressure dropping already?
Sometimes the amount of people we exchange with can become out of hand. What starts out as a nice gesture one year, exchanging with this friend or that relative eventually morphs into a yearly obligation. You may be surprised to find that the other person in this exchange feels the same way and is more than happy to drop the yearly gift swap. Talk to them. Often we also have auxiliary people in our lives to favor with a gift, from teachers to work-related people to babysitters and hairdressers, etc. Many times these people are also swamped with all those many little gifts at holiday time, and though the thought is appreciated they would rather not deal with the deluge. Sometimes a kind and heartfelt note of appreciation is most welcome. If you feel you must give something, make up a big batch of your holiday specialty (cookies, candy, fudge, whatever) and parcel a little out to each of the people in your life that you need to thank. One and done. And edibles are often more appreciated than extra objects to clutter up their lives.
Besides paring down the list of people that you exchange with, it is also a good idea to pare down the amount of gifts exchanged. This especially applies our beloved and cherished little offspring. I know it can be so fun to spoil them and see their happy faces when they open that pile of gifts, but is it worth going into debt for? And is it really good for them in the grand scheme of things?
Have you ever noticed that the more gifts children get the less they are actually appreciated? If they open, open, open more and more gifts the presents themselves become secondary to the act of tearing into the innumerable presents. Is this greedy abandonment really the kind of “happiness” you want for your child? Just a few thoughtful gifts might instill a more genuine thankfulness in your child.
My last gift giving tip comes too late for this Christmas, but is certainly something you can start for next Christmas. That is to prepare for the holidays all year, both in your spending and your buying. The old fashioned “envelope system” works great here. Just deposit a little bit out of each paycheck and let that be your holiday budget for next year. Pay cash for your presents and other holiday expenses, and when the money’s gone it’s gone. No more spending. And no credit card bills to fret over in January.
You can also spread out your buying for the entire year. Look for those after-Christmas sales. Take advantage of clearance sales throughput the year. And one of my favorites, yard sales and thrift shops. I used to pick up gifts for my kids (often still in the box or with tags on) all summer at yard sales and my Christmas shopping was almost done (for dirt cheap) by October except for a few requested items to round out the list. This works especially well with smaller kids who are not as particular as older kids can get. You can sometimes score presents for the adults on your list this way too (keep them in mind when you look around).
So, yes, Virginia (or whatever your name is), you can have a joyous holiday season without going into debt for it. In fact, I might venture to say that you can have an even more joyous and peaceful holiday when you keep it simple and take this time to relax and enjoy yourself with your family and friends without all that frenzied spending. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose and lots to gain!
Wishing you all a warm and wonderful holiday and a peaceful and prosperous new year!