Enjoy your holidays more and limit your stress with these powerful ways to save money during the holidays.
To play on an old phrase… Money doesn’t just burn a hole in your pocket. It can also burn a hole in your stomach – from stress. Worrying about having (or not having) money is one of the major stressors all year round, but it deals a double-whammy during the holidays.
The increased level of advertising for all those shiny objects can combine with memories of better Christmases in the past and bam, your Christmas stress level starts to sky rocket.
The temptation is huge to ignore your present reality and just put everything on a credit card … and worry about it later.
But you know what happens when you’ve done that in the past. The stress in January is even worse as you open (or don’t open and just worry about) your credit card statements.
How to Save Money During the Holidays
What if you could avoid this entire scenario?
Despite the temptations of holiday spending, you can take actions that will keep your financial situation from getting worse — and lessen the grip that stress has on your everyday life — without sacrificing what you hold dear about the holidays.
Here are some doable ways to save money during the holidays.
Create a Simple (Not Scary) Budget
A budget can actually be empowering. And a quick lesson in common sense. If you’re on a fixed income, in order to buy gifts for your family and friends, you’ll either have to save in advance or pay for it later on.
Get this simple printable holiday budget planner here.
Is there anything you can cut this month to free up some cash for the holidays? Anything you can sell this time of year? Any services you can offer during this busy season that would bring in some unexpected cash?
Once you’ve identified your budget, make that your holiday spending plan and stick to it. Unlike the government, you can’t print money. So you really do have to cover any extra expenditure with a cut-back somewhere else. Financially planning ahead can help cut back on Christmas stress when it counts.
If you find it impossible not to pull out a credit card when you go shopping, leave all your cards at home and take just cash… in the amount you’ve set aside for discretionary holiday spending.
When it’s gone, it’s gone. The tough part is having the discipline to go home at that point.
Ask for Support
No, you don’t need to ask your parents or friends for a loan. But you should ask for emotional support if you need it.
Talking helps. But if you’re uncomfortable talking to anyone who knows you, consider joining a support group. Some specialize in issues, like shopping addictions, while others deal more generally in financial distress.
Whoever it is, just talking to people who have been in a similar predicament (and have gotten out) will lessen the burden as you get out of your own.
Where your friends and family could make the greatest difference is if – together – you all agreed to redefine what makes up the year-end holidays. It’s not about the gifts and it’s not about how much someone spends on lavish entertaining. But it is about showing others you care. It’s about spending time together, sharing old memories and making new ones.
Cut down on the Christmas stress by creating a new way to celebrate. Make it reflect who you and your loved ones truly are. Maybe you get up early on Christmas Day and drive to a vantage point where you can see a sunrise. Pack up a thermos of hot chocolate for each person.
Or be of service: volunteer to help serve a holiday meal at a shelter. Who knows, you may be creating a new family tradition. Whatever you do, break the old patterns in which a huge pile of unneeded (and often unwanted) gifts piled up under the tree.
Limit Your Credit Card Use
If nothing stops you from pulling out a credit card when your “want” buttons are pushed, limit your access to your credit cards.
On a shopping site where you’re constantly tempted, remove all saved cards from your phone and computer. Make it much harder than a one-click purchase.
If you can’t control your in-person shopping, take cash on your next outing. Set an amount before you go, and that’s all you can spend.
You could also cut up or freeze your credit cards. Don’t cancel the account, just take them out of your use. Or give them to a friend or family member who doesn’t live with you. Ask them to hold the cards until after January 1st. And make them promise to ignore all your pleadings.
Sure, if you have the number memorized, you can shop anywhere without the card itself. But we have to want to get out from under the financial stress, and that requires some grown-up gumption!
Just knowing you’re sticking to your spending plan will lower your stress. Maybe the feeling is good enough to continue that behavior after the holidays.
It’s a habit that can trigger starting to pay down your debt as fast as you can, not paying off just the monthly minimums. You already know that having a massive load of accumulated credit card debt weighs heavily on your mind—and on your nerves—each time you think about it.
Do think about how good you’ll feel if you get through the holidays without adding to it.
Change How You Look at Money
Positive thinking won’t lower the dollar value on the bills you have to pay. But it will lower the stress around the fact that you have to pay them, just by breaking the worry-stress-worry-stress cycle.
And the less stress you’re carrying, the more creative you can be about finding solutions that will change your reality to something better.
What forms of positive thinking?
Look around you and count your blessings. Marvel at how that poinsettia by your front door knew how to grow as it did. Feel the warmth coming out of your radiator. Think about your cat’s purr or your dog’s cold nose when he comes in each morning to wake you.
Start a daily gratitude practice. Recognize that money isn’t everything in your life by appreciating what you do have, instead of focusing solely on what you don’t.
Recognize the Difference Between Wants and Needs
When we were kids, we wanted new sneakers for Christmas. Today we want Jimmy Choos. We wanted the new Barbie doll in her convertible. Today we want that Lexus waiting with a bow in the driveway.
Our wants have grown exponentially and the lines between wants and needs have blurred. As a society, we have drifted so far from our real needs, mostly by using money we didn’t have in order to get there. (And then the entire country’s economy hit a brick wall, remember?)
When it comes to the holidays, it’s obviously harder to cut back when you have children around, but it doesn’t hurt for them to learn a lesson or two about money. It surely would have helped if we had learned some at their age. Have an age-appropriate conversation with your children about their holiday gift expectations.
Take a moment before going shopping for any gifts you’ve budgeted into your holiday spending plan. You have the choice of filling a momentary “want” for that recipient, or you could fulfill a more long-lasting “need.” After the wrapping paper is torn off and thrown away, which do you think will leave a more lasting memory of being loved and cared for?
As the holidays approach and carols fill the airwaves, we all have a knee-jerk reaction to make this a magical time. But that magic comes with a high price tag.
By planning in advance and being creative, you’ll find innovative ways to create that same magic … but in ways that don’t add to later stress when those credit card bills show up in January.