If you ask me Christmas has turned into a ton of expectation. If you know me you know that Christmas is my FAVOURITE time of year. My favourite part of Christmas is the “feeling” of Christmas, the Christmas lights, the glow of the Christmas tree, Christmas music and best of all the traditions that I have with my family.
Unfortunately, that’s not have everyone views Christmas. In most homes Christmas has turned into a holiday that leaves families exhausted, broke and unhappy. This breaks my heart and I hope to share with you some idea’s that can turn around your holiday season this year.
Before we get into the details of how to survive the holiday season financially I would like to talk about the most important piece. I want you to think about not trying to fulfill the feeling of Christmas through gifts. This will come up in most of my steps to survive the holidays financially but I really want to ensure that you know this is the meaning behind most of my steps. I don’t believe Christmas should be about presents and before we begin I want to give you permission to explore this thought. Christmas is not about presents.
- The first and most important step is to realize that you need to take detailed look at your finances and have a Christmas budget. YES, I’m sorry that darn word budget. What I have listed below will help you financially prepare yourself for Christmas. Sticking to your budget is the most important part of this. Let’s spend our money consciously instead of unconsciously.
- What is important to you at Christmas? Think back to being a kid, what is your favourite memory about Christmas? I bet it doesn’t revolve around how much money someone spent on you. Stop and think what you want your experience to be this year at Christmas time. Do you want to spend time with people and build memories instead of buying them things? Let’s make Christmas about presence instead of presents.
- Write down who you want to buy presents for and question everyone you write down. Do you really need to buy this person a present? Could your presence be a present instead? Some people give presents out of guilt, responsibility etc. Time to stop that. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. Have that conversation with that person, “this year is tight and I can’t afford a present because I am really trying to watch my money and be responsible”. I bet that person will feel so grateful you said that, hard conversation but I can assure you it’s a way better feeling than spending money you don’t have. Maybe even suggest getting together for a Christmas coffee instead, honestly time is the best present I can ever get from people, I cherish it so much.
- Everyone always asks me how much should I budget for Christmas? Everyone is different as everyone’s financial picture is different. Look at your bank account, don’t worry about anybody else’s. Take a real good look at it. In an ideal world you would have saved every month for Christmas but I am thinking that hasn’t happened (mental note for next year, have it transferred automatically into a savings account every pay day). Set up a separate bank account (savings) that is named Christmas fund . You have approximately 5 paydays left until Christmas if you are getting paid bi-weekly. When I say have a good look at your bank account I mean that I want you realistically look at what you can spend without going into debt. Look at income coming in before Christmas and expenses going out and see what is realistic to spend. Nobody wants a Christmas hangover in January, that is the worst. I imagine you have experienced this, now is the time to take that power back. If you have 5 paydays left and you can budget $100 each paycheque that will give you $550. Again, please be realistic!! It is totally ok to have a very small budget. Honour yourself in where you are with your finances, its nothing to be ashamed of as you are now making conscious decisions to financially recover.
- Now that you have narrowed down who you want to spend your hard-earned money on and how much you can spend on Christmas I want you to break it down to have a budget for each person on your list. Example = you have three kids and you have 500.00 total to spend on Christmas. You will spend approximately 165 each on Christmas. Another example you have $400 and 2 kids and your parent’s, spend 180.00 on each kid and buy your parents a beautiful bouquet of flowers or get the kids to make them something and spend $40 on craft supplies or the flowers. Honestly, your parents don’t need anything!
- Now that you have your budget set out its time to get some envelopes and cash that you have budgeted. That’s right no debit cards or credit cards. The cards are just another way you can go over budget, so easy to just swipe that card and before you know it the 500 budget has turned into 1,000. This is unconscious spending, we aren’t going to do that. Been there done that. Got the ugly Christmas sweater. Put the cash in the envelopes for each person you are buying for and use cash to buy what you want. Of course, I know with this step there is the online world and how some people do shopping, I have you covered! My tip for this is to either load a reusable credit card and use this instead or else if you have a particular store that you buy from (ex amazon) then buy a gift card for the amount you are set to spend and use that on there. Sticking to your budget is key, be conscious of this. Don’t divert from the ultimate goal of surviving financially.
- What I have to make sure I write about again is how crazy the commercialism of Christmas has gotten and the big-ticket items people are now supposed to buy. It’s out of control. Every single day we are blasted with marketing of some sort of what to buy at Christmas and most of it is insanely expensive. What is even worse is our kids are seeing these advertisements. Please ensure you are keeping in mind the most important part of the season for you. Kids are expecting insanely expensive gadgets for Christmas, if you are just buying these for your kids they are going to always expect this from you. If your kid wants an iPad or an apple watch I think the best thing you can do is have them pay for part of it, raise their own money and see how hard it is. Let them know you will pay for part of it if they do things around the house but they have to come up with most of the money themselves. If we are teaching our kids to expect big ticket items for Christmas we are teaching them extremely bad habits with money from the start. Make them earn it, as we know money does not grow on trees! It’s not up to you to provide the latest and greatest and if you have to have the conversation that Mom or Dad can’t afford it then I applaud you because that is teaching your kids amazing habits with money.
- How about making something homemade?? I love making things for Christmas, it is my favourite thing ever. This Christmas I am making something that has cost me $30 and I think that will cover a present for most of my list. I would love to tell you what it is but those who are on my list read this….let’s just say it involves paint, if you want to know more just message me 😉 except those on my list, nice try though! What is also a hit around my place at Christmas is Christmas cookies. I make sugar cookies every year with my girls, our record is over 600 cookies. We cut them out with Christmas cookie cutters and have icing sugar and fun Christmas sprinkles. They are delicious and the best part is the fun you have making them. What’s better? A present and time spent together! The dollar store has beautiful boxes you can put the cookies in and hand deliver them with love and hopefully a Christmas visit that will brighten someone’s day.
This Christmas can be the best one yet if you put aside the craziness of the spending over the holidays. Spend time with loved ones, and make sure they are the ones you love, don’t exhaust yourself with people you don’t want to. Keep up with the self-care, nourish your body, keep rested, drink lots of water. KEEP IT SIMPLE! Don’t make this complicated. Complicated keeps us broke at Christmas. Don’t overwhelm your kids/grandkids with tons of presents you can’t afford, it’s not worth it.
If you have any questions or need support I am here, contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Merry Christmas and all the best to you and your family over the holiday season xo