Finding Joy In Budgeting To Have The Best Holiday Season

Oct 31, 2023
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 The holiday season once loomed over me like a towering, insurmountable force filled with the pressures of perfection and the shadow of material expectations. Okay, I'm being a little dramatic. But I always felt a lot of pressure during the holidays to financially perform in ways I wasn't fit or able to do.

I was the teen going through the sale bins at Bloomingdale, counting crumpled babysitting dollars, trying to match the gift-giving game of friends who never seemed to worry about price tags. I would put every single penny into people pleasing even mastering the gift of sweet-talking bank clerks to ditch overdraft fees when I overspent on gifts. It was a mad cycle—one I’m sure many of you know too well. There's a reason 35% of Americans go into about $1500 worth of debt during the holidays. 

I actually used to be kind of a Grinch because I always felt set up to fail and like I couldn't do enough. So why like the holidays if I couldn't enjoy it? It wasn't until I started budgeting that planning for the holidays felt so fun and light. 

So here's the straight talk on flipping the script on holiday spending without losing your mind—or your savings.

Do: Embrace the art of meticulous planning. Create a list of loved ones who truly touch your life and deserve a token of appreciation. If your budget is tight, prioritize these special few over a lengthy list of acquaintances.

Don't: Allow the sparkle of holiday parties to lead you astray. Plan ahead for gift exchanges, opting for creative and budget-friendly items that convey warmth without the weight of a hefty price tag.

Do: Allocate a budget for each person on your list. Be it a modest sum for a friend or a slightly larger amount for family, let these numbers guide your spending, not the other way around.

Don't: Be swayed by the siren calls of sales and discounts. A good deal only holds value if it aligns with a need or a well-thought-out desire, not the impulsive pull of a bargain.

Do: Adjust your monthly expenditures to accommodate the festive budget. Like cut down on uber eats and add a little more cash to your holiday budget. Small sacrifices can lead to meaningful gains, like opting for public transportation over taxis or hosting a cozy night in rather than a night out.

Don't: Overextend your wallet's reach. Base your holiday spending on a realistic assessment of your income, fixed bills, and necessary expenses, like food—especially in cities where the cost of living can escalate quickly.

Do: Cultivate transparency and openness with your partner and loved ones. Setting a modest cap on gift expenses can foster creativity and lead to more personalized, cherished gestures.

Don't: Fall into the trap of gift comparison. What others choose to spend is a reflection of their financial decisions, not a benchmark for your own.

Do: Let your words carry the weight of your sentiments. A thoughtful card, imbued with genuine emotion, can often hold more value than the most expensive of gifts.

Don't: Splurge on the frills. Expensive greeting cards can be an unnecessary drain on resources that could be better utilized elsewhere.

Holidays aren’t about giving until it hurts. They're about giving in ways that feel right. So this year, let’s ditch the debt and make the season about what we can give that truly matters—our time, our love, and our presence. After all, those are the gifts that keep on giving.

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