We have entered the most financially stressful time of the year; the Holiday season. Regardless of what holiday your family celebrates, there are an abundance of gifts being exchanged during the month of December and the expense of all that gift-giving sneaks up on us every year. If you’ve been working hard to stay on budget and gain financial stability, this season can derail your plans. There are three things to keep playing on repeat in the back of your mind from now until New Year’s to avoid ruining all the progress you made this year.
1. Keep your goals front and center
This time of year is filled with exciting parties, time off from work, and an incredible amount of temptations. You will feel tempted to spend money at every turn so your defenses need to be up. One of the best ways to stay on track with your budget is to be very firm in your goals. Think back just a few months ago, before all the holiday commercials started to interrupt your prime-time TV shows. What did you want for yourself financially? Write down your goals and post them somewhere you will see them every day. Glance at them before you go shopping. Saying them out loud every morning can have a big impact on keeping you on track. Don’t let the pressure to spend excessive money on gifts distract you from financial success.
2. You can’t Dance at Every Wedding
Growing up, my dad was always telling me I couldn’t dance at every wedding. He used this phrase whenever I had to make a tough choice. As a child, his advice helped me decide whose house to sleep over at or whose birthday parties to attend. As an adult, I can still hear his words in my head, especially during the holidays. Invitations to holiday parties, charity opportunities, and gift exchanges flood our calendars during December. However, there are only so many days in the month and only so much money to spend. Everything we do comes with a price. While gift exchanges and fundraisers obviously require spending money, parties can also be costly if you bring a gift for the host, need gas to get there and have to seek overnight accommodations. You might not be able to do everything you are invited to, and to stay on budget, you probably shouldn’t. Make sure you are picking the events and charities that are most important to you and let go of the guilt of saying no to everything else.
3. Be Realistic and Honest with Everyone Else
If you are keeping your financial goals a priority and have let go of the guilt of not attending every event, chances are you are going to do things a little differently than last year. Perhaps you are not going to buy a gift for a distant cousin that you only see once a year. Maybe your children aren’t going to participate in every gift exchange they are invited to. It is important that you be honest about how much time and money you can commit to the holidays. Letting close friends and family know that you have a spending limit for gifts can alleviate a lot of pressure and guilt when it comes time to exchange presents and it won’t leave you filled with regrets for overspending.