FIND PEACE THIS FESTIVE SEASON KNOWING THE FINE LINES OF FINANCE
No matter what customs and traditions you follow, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or the winter solstice, the December “Festive Season” can be a time of togetherness and inspiration.
It can have family members at each other’s throats as well, of course, but these cold, short days are best spent with those you love the most.
The festive season can also give you a renewed perspective on what it is you want from your life.
It can rebuild relationships and familial relationships (hopefully) and provides plenty of opportunities for us to tap into what is most important in life and to tune out all of our everyday troubles.
Financial Stress During The Festive Season
On the flip side, it can also be a time of incredible stress.
Between wallet-stretching expectations of gift-giving; connecting with and even hosting certain people with whom you generally have a toxic relationship and whose very presence can make even the shortest days seem long, the holidays can be extremely difficult for many of us.
Those in the mental health professionals often talk about how this time of year can send those already dealing with depression into a downward spiral.
This can cause immense feelings of loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, and frustration in those who cope perfectly well with the other eleven months of the year.
There are a great number of reasons for this but often the greatest problem area during this time is financial.
Planning For The Festive Season
We can stick rigidly to a carefully crafted budget from the second week of January through Black Friday but as the season of big gifts and big meals falls upon us, all that careful planning can oh so easily go flying right out of the window.
Canada is fortunate in that it doesn’t have this season so after Thanksgiving as they do in the United States, but that’s a small consolation prize as we watch all our careful saving and budgeting go up in smoke – or a smoked turkey, even.
To help you come to grips with these inevitable and yet always surprising expenses, below are 5 ways to save extra money for the festive season.
Get the right credit card
The most obvious solution, by far, but also one of the riskiest.
A credit card allows you to effectively transfer your extra December expenses to the following months.
This can certainly make it much easier on you as paying, say, $10,000 at once can hit you much harder than paying $1000 over ten months.
Plus, with the sheer overhead that comes with the December festivities, it’s often much easier to spare a few extra dollars in the quieter months in the early new year.
If you’re considering getting a credit card to best manage your financial needs, you need to make sure you get the right one.
Compare leading credit cards to determine which one best suits you.
Credit cards can help you become more solvent, but they can also do the opposite.
The difference often lies in whether your credit card is appropriate for you.
For this reason, having more credit available isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Choose a card that provides only as much credit as you’re likely to be able to pay off.
If you can’t see yourself ever paying off the maximum amount, it’s too much.
Furthermore, choose a card that helps you out with your current financial circumstances.
Many credit card companies will take on your debt with no interest in the first few months.
This can give you a good headstart on taking back your financial circumstances.
DON’T Get a Credit Card
The exact opposite of point one. Credit cards always come with the risk of drowning in debt.
So, if you feel like you’re simply not going to pay back your credit either because you’re not necessarily excellent with money or because your daily life already pushes you to your limit, financially, it’s probably best to resist the temptation altogether.
What this means, very simply, is that you have to understand your financial limits and plan accordingly.
Ideally, while working out your budget for the year, remember to include the extra expenses in December right from the off.
Putting that extra bit aside can be its challenge, of course, so you can budget from “December out”, rather than the reverse.
This simply means that come December, you will understand that you’re going to spend more than usual so you can dip into your savings with the express intention of replacing what you took out in January or February.
Another option would be to budget December as projected expenses so you can save for the holidays all year long.
Alternatively, you can take your January salary early with the understanding that you may be living extravagantly during the holidays but will be especially cautious for the next month or two.
Most of the time, we don’t know our priorities.
This is true of nearly everything in life but it can become especially problematic when it comes to our finances.
Rather than having a clear idea of what’s most important to us, we often spend without considering the consequences and put far too much money in that which we don’t need.
Do you need that extra pair of shoes?
Was it really necessary to buy that collectible off the internet when you can barely afford groceries?
This time of year is perfect for taking the time to prioritize what is most important to you and how to allocate your money accordingly.
These steps help for December but it will also make a huge difference for the rest of the year.
Make a list of all your priorities then try and rank them.
Of course, some will share a spot with others.
You’ll also find that some aren’t as important as you’d previously imagined.
By having a proper idea of what your priorities are, you begin to see that you don’t need to spend money on all of them.
Perhaps hosting a party isn’t as important as it seemed for the past five years.
Maybe prioritizing the most important people in your life is more worthwhile than spending time and money to get together with estranged family and friends.
Focus on yourself and get perspective
One of the big mistakes we make around the festive season is that we become entirely other-focused.
We think only of what we need to do to keep others happy and forget about what we need.
Essentially, everyone ends up having a torrid time trying to keep everyone else happy, and we all lose.
Turning your gaze inward can help not only you but others as well.
Think about what you need, and what you’d want from others.
This will help you get a better idea of what they need from you.
You can take steps to care for your own needs and theirs.
You’ll find that instead of panicking and buying an expensive, impersonal gift, you’re able to give something thoughtful – something that’s value does not lie in how much it costs.
Less Is More
There’s a tendency we have that we assume that the more you spend on something the more value it has.
A thoughtful gift that you know the recipient would get good use of or would bring a huge smile to their faces can be a lot cheaper than splashing out on the most expensive presents but they can also be far more rewarding, meaningful and personal.
Similarly and even more importantly, considering just how much of our festive budget goes to the meals we host and the parties we give, there’s little that’s more important than taking stock of who matters to you.
We may believe that it’s the size of the crowd that determines the success of your Christmas mean or New Year’s party but having a hundred work acquaintances, many of which you outright cannot stand, is never better than having a small group of close friends or family over for an intimate dinner.
Be Honest With Yourself
Most important of all is that you keep as real as possible throughout the festive period.
Ask yourself if you’re buying an expensive gift because you know it’s what the other person would truly like or because of your pride?
Do you need to host a gigantic Christmas dinner when a cheaper Christmas lunch would work better for you?
Is there any need for Earth for you to host a New Year’s party when it is so much easier and so much cheaper to attend someone else’s party?
It’s really just a matter of constantly asking yourself these kinds of questions.
Authenticity is key.
- Don’t invite who you don’t really want to invite.
- Don’t give presents for the wrong reasons and to the wrong people.
- Don’t pretend that you’re as rich as your mega-wealthy friend.
- Don’t act like you’re the soul of the party when you really just want to be an attendee.
This won’t just help your pocketbook, it will greatly improve your own mental well being in a time when it is so easy to lose ourselves, not just in what we don’t have but what we don’t actually want but think we should anyway.
Keep these things in mind and you may well actually have a Merry Christmas and a genuinely happy New Year.
Discussion: What ways do you plan for the holidays throughout the year? Leave me your comments below.