The holiday season is an eventful time of year that brings families together to see festive lights, visit Santa, and create delicious treats. From grocery stores selling holiday decorations to Hallmark movies playing on a loop, Christmas reminders are everywhere. Yet, this can be an expensive and stressful time for families, especially for parents, which can ruin the magical cheer.
Caroline Snyder, the founder and lead coach of Verdi Advising, says it’s important to remember that this is a tough time of year for a lot of people. “We don’t know exactly what’s happening, especially when it comes to finances with friends and families. Very few Americans are open about our financial situation, even with our closest loved ones,” Snyder adds.
Two financial experts, Theresa McKinney, an accountant for eight years and now a full-time blogger, and Snyder share some helpful tips to avoid crushing your budget this season.
1. THE PRESSURE OF GIFT GIVING OR QUANTITY VS. QUALITY
Many families try to give every child the same amount of presents to open, but these financial experts say that’s not necessarily the best way to give gifts.
“I would avoid getting caught up in the quantity of gifts and just make sure that what you’re spending is going to be the best value,” McKinney says. “You’re going to spend money, but spend it places your kids want.”
Deciding on what gifts to buy can be stressful, but always remember this time of year should be fun and exciting. Always remember that the holiday season brings people together, and gifts, in the end, are just gifts.
“One thing I’ve said many times and I think it’s really helpful to think about is that most people don’t remember what somebody else gave them six months down the line,” Snyder says. “It’s about the experience of opening it and getting to play with a friend or playing with a parent.”
2. NOT ALL DEALS ARE STEALS
Even before the holiday begins, so many stores and advertisements are pushing the public to buy more and more presents and are offering “deals.” McKinney says unless you’re planning a big purchase like a TV or a car, avoid Black Friday deals.
“A lot of people end up shopping just to shop, but I don’t know if those are necessarily the best prices of the year,” McKinney says. “You’ll find good deals on big-ticket items and electronics, but for me, I’ve always found the days after Christmas to be the very best as far as finding steals.”
3. SEEK OUT FREE ACTIVITIES
From seeing Santa and Christmas lights to magical performances, there is always something to do during the holidays. People can feel the Christmas cheer without having to spend money on activities.
“There are so many free things you can do so try to take advantage of that stuff. It’s not necessary to overspend this time of year even though the commercials and movies might suggest otherwise,” McKinney says. “Focus on family time and building traditions.”
Even for gift giving, not everyone needs a present to open. Snyder suggests some gifts, especially for adults, can be enjoyable and inexpensive activities.
“My sister and I are going to make sure that we do a few activities together and we’re going to really take that time instead of doing a gift exchange,” Snyder says.
4. PLAN AHEAD FOR NEXT YEAR
For next year, begin planning for the season ahead of time. McKinney sets aside money every month to go toward the Christmas season, which makes it less financially stressful. Another way to plan is by deciding how much you want to spend on a certain person.
“It can be really easy to lose track of what you’re spending,” McKinney says. “We kind of know the ballpark that we’re willing to spend on each person.”
In an ideal world, everyone would have a note on their phone or a list where they would put gift ideas down throughout the year, Synder says. “So you’re ready and you don’t have to do that mental work in October or November.”
Don’t lose the holiday cheer this year because of financial stress. Keep these tips in mind when you’re planning and buying gifts for your friends and family.
“This is a period of time that can be really triggering and really easy to backslide on progress,” Snyder says. “So try very hard to hold yourself to whatever boundaries are right for you financially.”