By Michelle Presnell, United Way Community Impact Manager for Financial Stability
The holiday season is exciting full of fun and giving. Along with the excitement can come a big dose of stress, especially financial stress.
This year, like last, has had the added complication of the continued pandemic. Throw all of those factors into the holiday season, and you might be tempted to bury your head in the eggnog. Instead, you can take some actions that will help you destress from the holiday spending with these three financially focused tips.
Tip #1: Decide on your spending limit
Start out with a good plan, and STICK TO IT. If you’re like me, I feel the need to “round out” gifts the closer I get to the holiday. Setting a holiday budget and sticking to it can be done in a couple of ways.
- Using the “cash” system: When the cash you set aside runs out, you’re done shopping.
- Use a free checking account: Many financial institutions have holiday accounts that are specifically designed to be for holiday spending. If your financial institution doesn’t offer this, explore the possibility opening a secondary free checking account.
- Exercise will power: You may not need any “tools” to help you stick to the plan, but the key with any tool is to exercise will power. Nervous about how your family may react or do you feel like you’re “shorting them”? Read on to tip number two…
Tip #2: Communicate your plan
It’s fair to assume if you’re experiencing some holiday stress, people around you (mostly adults) are probably feeling the same way. Once you’ve taken a look at your budget and made a plan for your spending, it can relieve stress to communicate your plan (with love) to cut back this year. If you have a specific family tradition that involves gift giving, you can use this as an opportunity to think of new traditions or how your budget can fit into the existing ones. Lastly, if you’re cutting back with the kids this year, consider supplementing big gifts with big moments. Have a dance party in the living room, build a fort out of pillows for a movie night, or make silly face pancakes to celebrate. Odds are they will remember the special moments more than what was inside the wrapping paper.
Tip #3: Focus on the reason for the season
No matter what holiday you are celebrating this time of year, the chances are that your gift giving and traveling are focused on coming together with your family, friends and community. Spending time with them is the greatest gift of all. I heard a phrase once that stuck with me: “I can always make more money, but I can’t make more time.” So spend your money wisely and your precious time carefully with those you love and care for this season.