Once November 1 strikes, we are inundated with advertisements and sales for the upcoming holidays. Sprinkled with glitter, dipped in velvet, and lit with delight, the season offers many tempting avenues for spending.
November through January marks one of the highest commercial spending seasons in America. This is due to our society’s emphasis on the display of material wealth and establishing a system of worth based on material possessions. This mindset can lead to many families overspending around this time, causing lifestyle inflation.
Lifestyle inflation is the practice of spending more money than you can afford or living beyond your means. There is almost no season more tempting to engage in this practice than the holidays. But spending is a habit and it is important to keep it in check to maintain the health of your finances.
I’d like to show you some simple budget tricks and tips to help you reign in your spending this season.
Keep Santa In Check
I’m just going to say it: you should make a holiday budget. The first piece of financial advice that I ever got was how to create and stick to a budget. A ubiquitous tool, budgeting can be your fairy godmother this season. Open up a Word document, download a template, impose a tree or an ornament on it and you are all set to start!
Making a holiday budget doesn’t have to be something you do by yourself-- make it a family activity. This process can be a great learning tool for your children so you can explain how and why it is important to understand intentional spending. By explaining why you as a family are budgeting, you are planting the seed for an anti-consumerist mindset and teaching them that the holidays are not centered around presents and shopping lists.
You can make your budget more interactive by also ‘budgeting’ out your time as a family. Perhaps you wish to donate your labor to a local church to help decorate or volunteer at a shelter to provide meals and warmth to the homeless. Creating this holiday budget as a family gives you the peace of mind of knowing how much you can spend and why you are spending it.
Budgeting is also important simply because it will provide you with concrete numbers to work with. Even if you are budgeting for spending a little more than you otherwise would, at least you are being intentional about that spending and not simply spending in a nonchalant, recreational way.
Keeping Santa’s purse strings tight is not always an easy thing to do. Here are some ways that you can give awesome gifts and not break your budget.
DIY presents. Are you an incredible sewer, a master craftsman, or an artist? If so, you can use your unique skills to make a present for your loved ones. Hand-crafted gifts are often much more special because they were made by you.
Hit the sale rack. Many top department stores have companion outlet stores that carry many of the same products but at heavily discounted rates. Check out the sale section and the outlet stores to save you a lot this year. I challenge you to be the bargain hunter you know is budding inside you.
Gift Experiences. Who says you need a fancy present? A gift of an experience offers someone a chance to do something exciting and spend time with you.
“Do You Want To Build A Snowman?”
Ana meekly asked her sister Elsa to spend time together during their favorite season, winter, in Disney’s Frozen. For Ana, it was never about what the sisters did together, the real magic came from the bond they shared and the memories they created. Use this sentiment as a springboard for organizing your priorities this season.
Make a list of the most important aspects of the holidays. I’ll do it too!
Decorating the tree
Offering time and labor to others
These wonderful traditions can be done in a budget-friendly way. Take the dinner for example. Instead of hosting a hyper-elegant cocktail party dripping in food and drink, offer to host a potluck where each person brings their favorite holiday dish. That way you are able to spend time with the people you love and eat amazing food without having to front the entire bill.
When you focus on experiences, you begin to move away from the draw of materialism-- a valuable lesson to teach your family this year. Experiences help you grow closer with one another and can show your children that there is more to Christmas than what comes from a store. Even the classic Grinch learns this lesson, “maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Here is an example: Take your family to a DIY pottery shop and have them make their own hot cocoa mugs. Your kids will be able to design and paint their own masterpiece that can be taken home. Once you arrive home, take them outside for a snowman building competition. After you all have built your snow mate, rush inside to drink hot chocolate from your new mugs. This is a great way to combine gifts and experiences and can help you spend quality time together.
Christmas is certainly not the only holiday celebrated this time of year, but no matter what you partake in, think about the magnitude and graciousness that comes with gifting your time and attention.
The holiday season can be filled with many joys. With the guide of your holiday budget, keep your spending intentional and emphasize the value of quality time with family and loved ones to make it a season you will never forget.