How not to lose your financial s$%# at Christmas…

I know, the holiday season is a bleed on the bank account. There is just no way around it unless you disappear to a solitary island until late January. Even if you don’t have a 30-person family to buy for, there is always parties and food, secret Santa’s, co-worker gifts, the dogwalker, and..and..and..and..and… Am I right?

So how do you maintain some semblance of order in your financial house during the month of December so that you aren’t in a financial depression in January? As if the short cold days aren’t enough to send you into a pit of despair?!

Well, here are a few ideas:

Obviously the first one is, PLAN FOR IT. Many people set aside a little bit of money each month all year long, so that there is a slush fund for the holiday season. Even $50-100 a month will add up quickly to help with the extra expenses in December that won’t have you sweating when you’re credit card bill arrives in the new year.

I know it’s basically December and you didn’t do that, so now what? Well, here are a couple other ideas that could help lessen the blow:

REGIFT. There I said it. Why is this such a tacky concept? We’ve all been given things that have never made it even out of the packaging. Perhaps we already have several of these, or we just don’t have a use for them. What’s the point of them sitting and collecting dust in a drawer in our home (or worse in the landfill)? You may have the perfect person that would think this is the most wonderful gift! There are also people that we don’t even know what we’d buy them, but we don’t want to show up empty handed at their house party – these are perfect gifts! They are purely a gesture and that is all. Gifts are ultimately about thought and care, not necessity. Plus, if you have friends that would judge you for repurposing things you’ve never used but were given…. you've got the wrong friends!

HOMEMADE GIFTS. Make them something. Some of the nicest, most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received are things that people have made for me. Maybe it’s baked goods, or jam, or jarred salsa or soap or a potted plant or a knitted pair of mittens. These homemade things are wonderful. For the record, my niece has painted me some seriously nice artwork, and I’ve practically redecorated my home in the colour scheme of her paintings so I can incorporate them! So, get creative and think of things that you can make. I think these gifts are so thoughtful, and they really show the recipient that you took time to do something special for them. One for the friend of the year category, and one for the chequing account!

I've said it before about any occasion and life in general - BUDGET. Create a gift giving budget and stick to it. You gift giving budget should also be within your monthly spending limits, and should not send you into debt for four months. So be realistic about what you can spend. That’s all I’m going to say about that, because the gift giving can get out GET OUT OF HAND!

Lastly, STOP BUYING GIFTS. In my immediate family, we decided years ago that the time and money and stress it took to buy each other things that none of us needed, wasn’t necessary to show we loved each other. So, we buy gifts for the kids under 16 and that is it. We won’t rob children of the magic of Christmas but the rest of us were happy to witness and enjoy it through their excitement. If you think about it, what do you actually need? Anything I actually need or really want, I eventually buy for myself. Taking this a step even further would be making a family donation to a charity. What a wonderful way to spend money at Christmas by helping others that need it, far more than us.

Now let’s talk about all the food and drink we either have to buy or eat. Here are some ideas on how to keep your pocketbook fat (I can’t help you with how to keep your waistline trim that’s another coaches speciality!)

HAVE A POTLUCK! Nobody has the time or money these days to host 8-10 people for dinner and just whip something up. Ask people to help out. Most people feel uncomfortable showing up without bringing something anyways, so if they ask to help, let them!

When you’re grocery shopping, don’t be in a rush and don’t be hungry. These are two cardinal rules when going to the grocery store. If you are either of these things I’ve described, you will inevitably be throwing out or overpaying for food. I can’t even begin to think of the food I’ve thrown out over the holidays because I was not prepared.

Instead of buying the pre-built cheese and veggie platters – make your own. The premium on all that premade or prepared stuff is huge, and let’s be honest, whipping up a bunch of veggies for a veggie tray does not take that long! Put on some fun music and get busy!

I hope these help. I know a couple of them are a little out there, but every little bit helps. I think the most important thing we can do for ourselves is not falling beholden to “shoulds”. Stay aligned to what is important to you. If gift giving and hosting is joyful for you, plan for it and do it. If you are doing these things because you think you “should” ….ask yourself how you can create more of a boundary for yourself to maintain personal alignment.

I wish you much love and joy for this holiday season, and a very wealthy and prosperous new year!

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In an effort to build a community of curiosity, empowerment and growth around personal finances, I’ve written this blog entry to share my money mistakes and lessons so that you know you’re not alone.