Peppermint Bark, Hot Chocolate, and Ice-Skating. What Holiday treats are the most important to you, and how are you planning on paying for them?
The holidays (whether you celebrate Hannukah like me, or X-mas, or don’t celebrate a religious holiday at all) are a tough time to be poor or be on a tight budget. But, besides all the presents, traveling expenses, loss of pay (for some), there are so many extras that are just so enticing. Hot chocolate! Fancy doughnuts! Anything peppermint! You get the point.
(Are you worried or stressed about budgeting for this upcoming holiday season? Are you tempted just to close your eyes, swipe your credit card, and hope your debt doesn’t get too bad? Then, read these posts to help you Budget for One Thing After Another and Why You Should Budget Even if You Don’t Have Enough Money).
The whole holiday season (especially in the U.S) has become an extremely commercialized, non-stop tempting season. Even if you are not religious, there are so many things that have become part of our “winter rituals.” And who can blame us? Peppermint Bark is delicious! Added to the fact that so many of these things are limited-edition and only are available for a really short amount of time. So the pressure to buy it NOW is real.
You would have to be a saint to have perfect self-control during the next few months. And why should you? You are allowed to enjoy and partake in all the goodies that are available, even if you are poor. Even if you have a lot of debt, it is OK to enjoy yourself. But it is also OK to be sucked into the consumerism culture every once in a while. You can realize that companies have perfected the art of getting YOU to buy things and still knowingly buy these things.
As with all things, the best way to handle this is with balance. A balanced approach between indulging and depriving. A balanced approach to enjoying life and being responsible. Most of all, a balanced budget that won’t have you paying off holiday debt in the summer.
So what do you do? How do you deal with the non-stop barrage of things and experiences that are assaulting you every day?
Plan for Success
The best way to deal with these extras is to plan and budget. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can resist all the temptations that come your way. You are not a saint or a monk. You are a physical creature, and you enjoy some physical comforts. But you also don’t need to indulge in every single thing that comes your way or throw up your hands and decry your growing debt. This goes for parents as well: you cannot expect your children to do without every single thing they see, but you also don’t have to give in to every single thing they want.
Sit down, think critically about what you really want, and then decide how much you will treat yourself.
How many doughnuts are you buying this year? Pick an amount and stick to it.
How many Seasonal Holiday Drinks are you allowing yourself? Pick an amount and stick to it.
(As an aside, this will help your health as well!)
Plan with Your Family
If you are married or in any relationship, you should not make these decisions on your own. You will probably fail if your spouse or significant other is not on the same page as you. So instead, have a meeting and discuss your plans for how to get through the holiday season with your spouse.
Remember: what is important and integral to you may not be important and integral to your spouse. So make sure that any decision you make takes both of your very real needs into consideration.
If your children are old enough, you can include them in the discussion as well. What things do they look forward to all year? What things are they OK to ditch? For example, you don’t want to splurge on ice-skating for the whole family when they aren’t actually into it- or worse, they complain the whole time! (They may still complain the whole time, but usually, when kids plan and take ownership of any activity or decision, they complain less and cooperate more. Win-win!)
3 Tips To Help You Through the Holiday Season on a Dime:
1. Can you make it yourself? Are there some things that you can make yourself to save some money?
2. Coupons and deals. Keep an eye out for any deals on the items you want. For example, Starbucks runs special promotions either on its own or in conjunction with credit cards. Utilize those deals and plan your treats around sale days.
3. Stay away! Is it too tempting to pass the bakery and not buy something? Then don’t pass the bakery! Keep away from the mall, the shopping center, and the bakery unless you need something specific. Don’t go there just “to look” if it is not in your budget to buy it. Don’t test your self-control- you will probably lose!
There is no need to deprive yourself during the holidays season (unless you are really, really poor), but it doesn’t mean you should go all out and rack up credit card debt on candy canes.
Plan, budget, be realistic, and enjoy the holiday treats guilt-free!