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Merry & Bright: Tips For Holiday Saving

The holidays can be a wonderful time. A time to rekindle family bonds, share new friendships, and welcome people into your home. Everyone has different ways to spend the holiday season but people often fall into similar traps-- overspending is the main culprit.

Western culture has solidified the idea of gift giving as an outward expression of gratitude and love. This can be a lovely sentiment: finding the perfect notebook for a budding artist, painting a coffee mug for your favorite caffeine aficionado, getting your outdoor adventurer a new jacket. But sometimes we place so much emphasis on the material gifts we give one another that we end up spending way more money than anticipated.

I’d like to share some tips with you to help keep your holiday spending in check.

Santa Baby

I am sure you have all heard this song once in your lives! The 1953 hit, Santa Baby, originally recorded by Eartha Kitt details a litany of expensive gifts: dripping diamonds, sparkling cars, and mountains of money. The lyrics turn the holidays into an over-the-top consumerist playground befit with a golden slide of course.

I bring this song up as a strong example of what not to do this year. Lavishly overspending will only leave you with a lingering sense of regret and dismay after the holidays are gone. By opting to spend money you may not have, you are jeopardizing the health of your credit and may be impacting your financial future for a long time to come.. Building credit is like building trust in a relationship: it takes a long time to build but can be destroyed in the blink of an eye.

Sometimes people spend so much money during this time that they go into debt. If you cannot afford to gift a new car, an expensive set of earrings, or a new perfume, then don't! It is not always easy saying no, especially when you want to give something nice to your family. But it is super important to know that no present is worth going into debt. 

Your loved ones would also not want you to put yourself in harm’s way, they just want the best for you and during this time that is better spent with quality time together.  They will like gifts that are obviously thoughtful more than they will like gifts that are obviously extravagant.  In fact, they may wonder why you would give something extravagant - are you trying to impress them?  Do you think they will like you only if you give them something really expensive?  Are you trying to make them feel obligated to you?

Department stores are riddled with new trinkets and gadgets when the holidays roll around and some are tempting to add to your home. Just because there are new table runners does not mean that you are obligated to purchase them. Work hard not to cave-in to the temptation of buying costly items that neither you nor they need.  Small, inexpensive items are OK but not major items.  By saving more of your money, you open yourself up to experience more beauty and joy with family and loved ones.

Holiday List

Budgeting can be easy to say but seldom is it easy to do. In order to help, I am going to put a financial flare to your holiday list this year! 

  • Set a realistic spending goal for the season

Get real here and break down what you are able to spend on everything: gifts, travel, food, and hosting costs. Having a hard number will be really helpful to keep you within budget.

  • Curb recreational spending

There is almost no time of the year that sees such a surplus of impulse spending. I myself even fall prey to this when new ornaments or lights are released for the first time. Keeping this temptation in check will be instrumental for your holiday budget.

  • Save year-round

This is one of the best holiday strategies on the list. Try to save some extra money throughout the year to prepare for the jump in expenses during the holidays. Saving is something that can be added to your monthly financial plan and when it comes to saving, the earlier the better.

After you finish going through this list, I’d like to ask you a question: What does the holiday season mean to you?

Use this answer to drive your holiday budget to allow you and your family the things that are most important to you.

Make The Season Bright

One of my favorite holiday traditions is picking a place or event that each family member wants to attend. Then taking the time to go and enjoy that place or event with that specific family member. We all get to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is such a joyous tradition.

What are your favorite family traditions around this time of year?

Make that time the center of the holidays by teaching your children the value of quality time. When the temptation to spend looms at every corner, give them a healthy distraction. This is the time to pass on the special nature of time with family and loved ones. That is a present that you cannot find in a store. It is not wrapped in ribbon and it does not come in a box.  But time together is a thoughtful gift that everyone appreciates and remembers long after the “stuff” has lost its glimmer and been tossed away.  Memories can  live in our hearts and minds forever -- and sharing time together in the same activities can be the most precious gift of all.