The holiday season is upon us and ’tis the time for big spending. In fact, according to the personal website Magnified Money Americans that are already in debt sank an additional $986 in credit card debt over the holidays in 2015.
Why do we end up spending so much? Some of it is probably due to social pressure. After all, this is the season for giving, right? And if you don’t give generously you could look like a cheapskate. And the stress of dealing with holiday debt can be bad. One study done in 2015 found that more and more shoppers admit that the’ve fallen prey to the seasonal pressure to spend beyond their means.
Fortunately, life doesn’t have to be like this. There are ways you could realistically stick to your holiday budget and without looking like Uncle Scrooge.
Suggest a limit
If what’s keeping you in a cycle of debt is buying presents for all the members of your family, then you need to speak up. Contact your relatives and suggest an alternative to the usual gift giving. For example, you could suggest a mystery Santa where everyone draws a name and then buys a really nice gift for that person.
Give the gift of your skills
What’s your skill? Is it photography, wood carving, art, knitting or sewing? Use that skill to create handcrafted gifts for your family members. Gifts you made yourself will be cherished much more than something you bought on Amazon.com. Several years ago, I received paintings from two of my grandchildren that are hanging on my wall to this day and will stay there so long as I own this home. And this is just one example of things you could make for your family members that they would love.
Pay with your points
If you have racked up a lot of points with one or more of your credit cards, then now’s the time to cash them in and use the money to buy gifts. If you’re lucky some of your credit card issuers will have special relationships with retailers that will give you more spending power per point. You could also use your points to buy retail gift cards, which make really great gifts.
Don’t believe you absolutely have to reciprocate
Did a coworker or friend you’re not really that close to surprise you with a gift? We know you’ll feel pressure to reciprocate but it’s not necessary. Don’t run off to the mall to buy something to match the gift you received, which would only add to the balance on your credit card. What you could do instead is give the person a hearty thanks and then follow this up with a hand-written card or you could maybe treat her or him to a drink after work.
This is certainly not something you want to do very often but it does have a time and place. While re-gifting certainly shouldn’t be looked at as a way to clean out a closet it can be done. However, if you choose to do a personal item – especially if it’s been opened – this should be based on whether or not the recipient would really love to get it. A good example of this is a first edition book that’s just been collecting dust on your bookshelf. This would definitely be an appropriate re-gift. Another thing that’s acceptable to re-gift is a family heirloom that you could pass on to another member of your family.
Gift those people that made your life better or easier or both
Reserve some money in your budget to gift those people that have worked hard to make your year better or to bring some joy into your life. This would include people like coaches, babysitters and teachers. There’s no need to go overboard here but this is a way to show your appreciation in the form of a thoughtful gift. In fact, here’s another area where something homemade would be spot on.
Learn to resist the pressures
You may feel pressured to gift people just because they do something for you. As an example of this, you could feel pressure to gift the guy that picks up your trash once a week or the person that delivers your newspaper. Resist these pressures unless you feel that the person did something for you above and beyond the call. Did the newspaper carrier slog through a foot of snow to deliver your Sunday paper? Then he or she might be worth a gift. But if a neighbor girl babysat for you just a couple of times throughout the year then you don’t absolutely need to gift her. We all feel a lot of pressures during the holiday season but if you want to stay on budget you need to learn to resist some of them.