by Jaynee Sasso
As a result of the current economic crisis, a cycle of stress, anxiety and depression has become a part of the holiday tradition for many families. I challenge you to break the cycle by not placing unrealistic expectations on yourself. It is so easy to get carried away with all the decorating, gift giving, and family gatherings. However, your annual traditions do not have to break the bank or leave you with a financial mess to clean up at the beginning of the New Year.
So often we sacrifice our peace of mind by making a choice to borrow against our future and spending money that we cannot afford to. Acquiring credit card debt is not the only way we tend to exercise poor judgment. Emotional and impulsive spending are usually the dominating factors during this time of year for consumers. I want to encourage you to make better choices in your financial life by choosing to invest more of yourself, and less of your money to gain the affections of your loved ones.
One benefit of the current economic meltdown is that we will be forced to focus on what really matters in our lives: developing a stronger bond within our families. Materialism has far too long camouflaged the true meaning of the holiday season and our need to nurture our relationships. Many of us will be forced to learn how to affordably enjoy the holidays without over spending. It can indeed be accomplished.
The first step is to acknowledge that after all the gifts have been opened and all the decorations put away, you still must meet your regular monthly obligations. In other words, life goes on and the bills that come with it. So don’t make poor financial decisions whose consequences will haunt you throughout the upcoming year. Remember that every financial decision has a ripple effect and will often be felt months and sometimes years to come. Today many people are still digging themselves from under the financial mess of Christmas past. Do not use the holiday season as an excuse to be financially irresponsible.
Many parents will find themselves struggling with overwhelming guilt because they must say no to fulfilling their children’s every Christmas wish. I suggest you use this opportunity to examine the type of children you are raising. Then lead by example and show them the importance of being a good steward over their finances by making responsible choices even when it is difficult. Establishing boundaries for your holiday spending and choosing to work within your budget are great starts to a New Year.
Tips on how to make the holidays more affordable:
- Review your monthly budget and decide how much you can afford to spend overall. Be sure to consider not only gifts but decorations, holiday meals, and travel cost.
- Make a list of everyone that you intend to buy a gift for. List the names according to priority. You may find that it’s unrealistic to buy a gift for every person on your list.
- Decide how much you can reasonably afford to spend on each person. At this point you may need to scratch off the names of relatives that you haven’t seen in years.
- Never forego paying your normal monthly expenses, use credit cards or cash advances to make holiday spending affordable. Gambling with the roof over your head or transportation to work is just not worth the stress that you will face after the holiday season is over.
- Ask family members to share the cost of your holiday gatherings by sharing gifts for the children, bringing pot luck meals, etc.
- Never pay retail. There are just too many bargains out there. The best adrenaline rush is getting something you want at a deep discount.