Stay Debt Free This Holiday SeasonDec 04, 2020
Fa-la-la-ing & finance. Another November and the stress of another holiday season is creeping up on us. Honestly speaking, I have a real love-hate relationship with the end of December, my family has (affectionately) called me the grinch on a number of occasions.
I love visiting with my family since they don’t live close to me. I love the time off work to reconnect to myself, my goals, and my spirituality. I love the traditions of good food, fun, and overall holiday cheer. I love getting more opportunities to give back to the communities that give to me all year long.
With all that, there is so much that upsets me over the last two months of the year. The pressure to ‘buy a better gift,’ to ‘get someone exactly what they want,’ to ‘buy now or miss the deal,’ to make your home, decor, food, gift wrapping all look like it came out of a Pottery Barn catalog. I could go on and on. With all this added pressure, how is anyone supposed to stay debt free during the holidays?
Markers tell us ‘it’s about giving and being grateful.’ Ironically most of their ads just give me anxiety, guilt, & jealousy. It makes me sad that so many people break the bank this time of year. Going into unnecessary debt, just to avoid feeling like a ‘bad parent, child, or host.’
Now for a positive thought. It’s 2020.
I know, I said positive. If this year has done anything, it’s helped a big majority of folks rethink their priorities. We’re valuing time together because we were denied it. We’re valuing knowledge, because it’s kept us safe. We’re valuing simplification, because it’s kept us sane (mostly). Things have seemed to take a back seat to experiences and this makes me really optimistic. I hope you’re feeling the same way and use a few of these tips to have a joyous end to 2020, because with a little pre-planning at thoughtfulness it is possible to stay on your financial path this year!
How can you stay debt free this holiday season?
Here are my 5 best and verified tips to stay debt free during the holidays.
- Plan ahead & stick to the budget
- Use rewards smartly
- Talk about it
- Be grateful, not perfect
- Spend on experiences, not stuff
Plan ahead & Stick to the budget
This is crucial, but also requires some pre-planning. Hopefully you’ve thought of your budget beforehand and saved that amount. What I do every year is use my ‘extra-paycheck’ (if you get paid on a bi-weekly schedule, this works) towards the end of the year and that’ll be the Holiday fund. Others will just utilize their monthly saving amount in December for gifts and travel. Whatever your system, stick to it and track ALL the spending. People generally plan for gifts but forget about the travel, food and beverage, hostess gifts,or even the clothing costs — because who doesn't want a new outfit for those family photos?
Need a little help with planning ahead? I've been using this workbook to help me accomplish my financial goals for over 5 years!
Use rewards smartly
Do I love a good deal! But buyer beware… those extra points, percent off, and free shipping doesn't always mean you’re getting a steal. These discounts are designed to hook you into buying more. So go in with a plan (Tip #1!). With that being said, I’m a big fan of places where I can get cash back either by using my credit card or another system. Personally, I use Rakuten because they give me cash back on purchases I would make anyway with no mark-ups- I typically get about $120 every year, enough to pay for Netflix! I also have a credit card that gives me 5% back on my Amazon purchases, which is key to buying & sending gifts to family living in 4 different states. There’s a ton of stuff out there, take a little time to do some research and get rewarded for your shopping.
Talk about it
Remember when you were little and could write to Santa and magically you would get what you wanted — or some semblance of it? We need to communicate our feelings and expectations to our family and friends so that we can prepare and compromise. This year everyone I know has different views and comfort levels about how the holidays should go. Talk to your family and friends about both of your wishes for food, celebrations, sharing space, travel and gifts. How much you are planning to spend? How much are they planning? Lay it all out on the table and you might be surprised by what you see.
Having trouble laying it all out there? Let me know, I have lots of experience guiding families to talk about money and I'm happy to help!
Be grateful, not perfect
This is a tough one for me. I’m a recovering perfectionist and if I can’t do something really well, I might not do it at all. I’m working on changing this and so should you. There’s nothing wrong in taking pride in your amazing gift giving, decorating, cooking, hosting and planning skills, but don’t make it stressful or the center of your celebrations. Also, if you’re not the best at these things, don’t let it deter you! Remember the gift is in the giving- yes, it doesn't really matter what’s under the wrapper and everyone’s over at your house to spend time together and they don’t care as much about dinner as you think. So save the money and stick to Tip #1! December is a wonderful time to start a daily gratitude list. Write down 5 things every day (use that cell phone you’re looking at to set a reminder right now) and take a moment to show appreciation to the universe. It might surprise you that the moments or things you are most grateful in life are the least perfect.
Me at City Park in New Orleans.
Spend on experiences, not stuff
There is a lot of science behind this one, look it up! Turns out our brains are really great at adaptation — so that ‘cool new cell phone’ will quickly turn into ‘that same old cell phone.’ Also, our brains like to compare and that can be a big bummer. Ever get really excited by a new something (car, purse, shoes) and when your friend gets a newer, better version you feel deflated? Yep. This is just how our pesky brains work, no real avoiding it. Extra tip- social media makes these phenomenons worse! Great experiences have a better chance at staying ‘great’ in our brains because there is nothing to adapt to. So that romantic picnic you had with your partner, or that funny family dinner stay romantic and funny in our memories. It’s also harder to compare experiences with each other. Another amazing benefit- we more often have experiences with others and our brains thrive on these types of social connections. Bonus- experiences can be super affordable (think picnics, ice skating, hot coco, taking a hike or tour) — win win win!
Need more convincing? Here's more explanations from touristmaker.com
A debt free holiday is possible!
Whatever your 2020 holidays look like, I hope you can use these tips to make it delightful and debt free, because I promise you that paying the interest that comes around in January isn't worth it. Your ability to stay on path with your dreams and goals is worth infinitely more than trying to impress those around you — because *news flash* they already love you and spending more or less money on them wont change that.