'Tis the season (of challenging budgets and boundaries)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Cue the carols, cocktails and parties. Cue the family gatherings, expectations and spending!
While it’s fun to experience the tradition and magic of the season, the holidays can be the most expensive and stressful time of the year. It’s hard to march to the beat of your own drum in the face of gift giving, party-going traditionalists.
Here are some (ruthlessly frugal) ways to manage the social and financial pressure of the season:
Make a Game Plan
Yes, it can be uncomfortable to break the social mold. And yes, if you had endless amounts of money you’d give really great gifts for everyone you love. However, here we are in December 2018 and the only way to live is to be honest about what you can afford. Do everyone a favour and minimize stress so you can enjoy the holidays.
I totally get it. No one wants to be the person that says, “I can’t afford to buy gifts this year” or worse, “I don’t want to buy you gifts to begin with”. But as an adult, it pays off to be brave and do what’s right for you.
Set boundaries by having a conversation before the gift-giving moment or by simply giving what you can.
Before we launch into what to buy, please know that any gift suggestions that I make are based on being debt-free and having cash in your emergency fund. When you’re in the middle of repaying debt and building your platform for wealth, it’s important to set limits. Be creative and keep your spending low!
Get your Santa on
Most of us feel like we’re on the hook to buy gifts for our family, friends and the Secret Santa at work. Brainstorm all of the people to whom you want (or feel obligated) to give gifts. Make a list. The rest of the article will help you get really clear on how much you to spend this season.
Perfect for friends, near and far
Who would appreciate a card and a thoughtful note? (Hint: everyone on your list).
The easiest gift
A gift for your holiday party host is a lovely way to thank them for their hospitality. Pick out a crowd pleasing wine and have a couple of bottles ready so you’re not scrambling for a gift at the last minute.
If you have to participate in an office gift exchange, for the love of God, make sure the organizer sets a limit.
Your family will thank you
Have a conversation with the important people in your life and suggest that you change it up this year. For example, you could say, “Hey mom, since we’re all grownups now and we don’t really need anything would you be OK if I organized a family secret Santa?” Your whole family will thank you.
Let’s face it, unless you’re super wealthy, really into shopping or ready to spend cash money, no one likes the obligatory giving part of the season.
Gift ideas in order of spending, from least to most
Just spending time with each other is enough
Send a card with a thoughtful message (bonus points if you make your own cards with old family Christmas pictures on the front)
Organize a Secret Santa so everyone gets one gift. Don’t forget to set a limit! (Give your person a restaurant gift card – pick somewhere that does brunch or lunch and if you’re feeling extra generous, throw in some babysitting)
Host a cookie party (Invite your girlfriends over, bake all day and share the cost. Pick up some festive tins at the dollar store, et voila! You end up with many different cookies and beautiful homemade gifts)
Treat your loved ones to a jar of my personal favourite, spiced nuts
HOT TIP: the dollar store has simple brown gift bags – so crafty!
Finally, a little holiday pep talk
May I remind you that you are the boss of you! No matter how lovely the gift, it does not have to symbolize how much you love the person you buy it for. You can love people with all of your heart and show it in many ways other than what you buy.
Sometimes family members are just not on the same page. Some people really value the gift giving experience. The lunatics out there are not going to be OK with a delicious jar of homemade sweet and spicy cashews. Yes, there are tons of emotions wrapped up in the holidays and money but we can all choose to take it lightly. We can take the brave position that people’s emotions are “100% their responsibility”. Know that after this holiday season, life will go on.
Brene Brown would be proud.