By John G. Merna
AVOID HOLIDAY SEASON MONEY STRESS WITH THESE TIPS
The holiday season in Hampton Roads and Richmond are beautiful. Generally, there are many events and festivities available in celebration of this bustling time of the year. But the stress of the pandemic has put extra stress on an already stressful time for many and will turn what we might call an uncomfortable flurry of spending into the financial storm season few have reckoned with before.
The pressure of compensating to make the holidays “special” and offset the negatives of the stress created by social distancing, remote working, disrupted school activity, is a real temptation. However, for many their finances are more tenuous, their job less secure, and the political and economic landscape very uncertain.
Halloween is the beginning of the holiday trifecta of celebrations they can cause people to overspend in search of a feeling or experience that may be more “compensating” then sharing. Awareness of this urge is the first step to successfully enjoying the holidays without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips to get you in a sober financial frame of mind.
Tips for surviving the Holiday Financial Storm Season
1) Enjoy your home life with close friends and family. It doesn’t cost much to have a wonderful and fulfilling time at home during any of the holidays. With all of the running and long work hours, staying at home is a great way to save money and appreciate what it is you work so hard to have. If you traditionally overlap this season with long travel to visit relatives maybe this year is not the year. Not exciting? Keep reading.
2) Make lists of the things you will be participating in over the holiday season and budget for them. Gifts, decorations, and travel are likely to be the most costly items on the list. Parties, school events and church events, and other in-person traditional gatherings are less likely in the pandemic. Make a budget. Write it out. Stick to it. Resist the very natural tendency to let spending become impulsive – especially this time of year and during this crisis!
3) Consider prepaid cards as gifts or cash. They allow you to stay on point in your budget, reduce the time and stress of finding a personalized item, and they are easy to use. A card joking about the pandemic and everyone’s need to be “liquid” may help you avoid the sense of guilt or feeling it is “lazy”. This holiday season everyones’ priority is to take care of their health and manage their stress. Your loved ones will understand that.
4) Reuse what you have! No one but you will know if your seasonal decorations were used last year or the year before? What is more, people don’t notice or care. Keep the purchasing of new decorations to an absolute minimum and you will save yourself hundreds of dollars. Americans have spent billions each on Halloween candy, decorations and costumes! This is may be the year to help your children make their own costume. It is a fund sharing activity for both of you.
5) Gift giving is great but if you will regret the bills as they come rolling in, what did you really give? A few minutes of “oooo and ah” is nice when your $200 gift is being opened. However, when you are paying back almost double for the gift in principal, interest, penalty and late fees for the next five years, you may think of a better way to show your appreciation.
6) Less is more. In truth, the holidays are not about singing door skeletons, expensive gifts or lavish spreads of food. Chances are you will remember the kid’s costumes, seeing Aunt Matilda, or the cozy feel of the living room on Christmas Eve after hustling around for two weeks shopping. You probably won’t remember actual gifts and the stuff surrounding the holidays. Neither will your loved ones. They will remember something that you make special and “special” can’t be bought for any price no matter what the package says.
7) Choose quality over quantity! Give one great memorable gift to your child this year. Have one great memorable get-together with friends. Do one remarkably memorable thing and you will remember your least expensive holiday as the best one… guaranteed! Think about it. Does any of the drives through Christmas lights stand out over another? Does another fruit cake at your sister’s house stand out? Or for you like most of us, do all the years blur together? This year, make a dish you have never made before, take the family to a new destination, write a letter to every special person in your life. Make a memory this year and save money, time and stress. Strive for memorable.
It’s no secret the holiday season is upon us. Managing expectations is the key to having a good holiday. Worry less about your vision of how it should be and enjoy each moment. Advertising reminds us to use the moment to think about what we don’t have and where to buy it. The truth is we should think about each moment and appreciate what we do have. In the end, we don’t really need more than an appreciation of the love we share to have a great holiday.