Coming from a family tradition of waking up at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday to tackle the crowds and chaos in the ultimate shopping day of the year, my holiday season has always had a stressful kick start. The news stories and videos that surface of these shoppers on Black Friday are not exaggerated and unfortunately provide insight of what Christmas shopping is like in the 21st century. So how do we, as “responsible financial planners,” cope with the Christmas chaos and keep our wallets happy? Here are my 5 tips to do just that and survive the holiday financial stress.
MAKE A LIST. Now the more you read my blogs, you will come to know that “when all else fails, make a list” should be my life motto. What list making does is it takes your thoughts and organizes them in a physical form. Once the words are on paper, you can physically see what it is you have to do or who you have to buy for. So start writing. List the names of everyone you want to get a gift for and put them into categories, i.e. immediate family, friends, secret Santa, coworkers, etc. Write the names on some card-stock and keep it with you until Christmas Day.
BUDGET. With list in hand, it’s time to budget. A good place to start is to look back at how much you spent last year and determine where you can improve. Can you get away with spending less on Grandma this year? The best way to save money is to compare your previous spending and find ways to spend less. Finally, take a look at your list and if you already have an idea of what you are getting someone, write down the cash value.
SAVE SAVE SAVE. Go back in time from today and start saving 6 months ago. OK, I know that’s not possible but it is so important to save ahead of time. Personally, I start putting some money aside in September. Just a little bit each month will take the financial burden away in December, so that you can make your purchases with a resting heart rate!
GET CREATIVE. If you read last year’s blog, you’ll know that my family gets creative. We played Secret Santa as a family, we’ve also utilized thrift stores as an exclusive shopping destination. There are also so many awesome DIY gifts you can make that make gift giving that much more affordable. Check out some of these for inspiration.
AVOID STRESSFUL SHOPPING. While I was still out in the cold at 4 am on Black Friday, my tip to you is don’t do that. Like my Dad always said, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Platforms like Amazon have changed the game for shopping. Since you’ve made a list and set aside your budget, go online. Shopping while sitting on the couch and drinking your hot cocoa next to the fireplace sounds a lot more exciting than bundling up and toughing out the crowds.
Bonus tip: Remember what’s really important. All things aside, the most important tip I have for you is to remember what the holidays are about. Don’t put yourself in debt because you feel obligated to buy a gift for your second cousin or your neighbor down the street. The holidays are so much bigger than that. Focus your energy on spending quality time with your family. Happy Holidays!