How to Spend During the Holidays Without Going Broke
Let's play a game.
Think of all the things you spend money on during the holidays, and then try not to have to breathe into a paper bag.
It's cool... you do some yoga, and I'll do more listing.
- Halloween costumes
- Halloween candy
- family and friend gifts
- gift wrapping
- shipping the gifts
- feeding people a lot of food over a lot of days
- class parties
- chipping in for office gifts
- Secret Santa
- all the pumpkins
- pumpkin carving tools because who knows where last year's are
- Christmas cards
- stamps for the Christmas cards
- hostess gifts for five holiday parties
- throwing your own holiday party
- a Christmas tree
- tree decorations
- new lights since every strand is on the fritz
- a dress for the fancy office party
- teacher gifts
- extra craft supplies for all the Thanksgiving turkey handprints
- travel expenses
- New Year's party
- New Year's outfit
- 2018 novelty glasses
- It's a new year and I'm broke shut up
It adds up, and it adds up fast. Let's keep our budgets more in check this year, shall we? We're not being stingy; we're staying sane.
I've created a free downloadable holiday budget planner so you can get your ducks in a row, but first, let's create some context.
Only spend money on what's important.
One of the easiest ways to not go broke during the holidays is to only spend money on what matters. If you decide that sending Christmas cards isn't part of your holiday game plan, you just saved money on paying a photographer, printing the cards, and buying a million stamps.
You don't have to automatically participate in every holiday activity, especially when you're spending money on something that isn't important. Know what's important, and only spend money on those things.
Know what you have.
Holiday stuff gets tucked away in closets and in our minds. We forget what we have and buy more of what we don't need.
I have no less than eight rolls of wrapping paper that I've bought after Christmas (yay saving money!), but if I keep buying discounted paper before using what I already have, I'm not saving anything, space included.
Try and anticipate what activities are coming your way and make sure you don't have what you need already. Four years of buying repeat pumpkin carving tools taught me that lesson. We already have them. Multiple sets. Sure, spending the $6 "just to make sure" feels fine in the moment... until you have a dozen of those $6 moments and can't figure out why your bank account has a vitamin deficiency.
Set a budget.
This is the least fun part but doesn't have to be.
Limits help us be creative. Limits give us permission to spend on what matters and ignore the rest. Limits keep us from extending beyond what we can afford, both financially and emotionally.
You can listen to The Lazy Genius Creates a Budget if budgets are terrifying and/or exceedingly boring, but the goal is simple. Choose an amount for the entire holiday season that includes everything. Don't categorize yet; just choose one amount.
Having trouble knowing that amount? Say a number - let's go with $1000 - for everything extra over the next few weeks. First, do you have an extra $1000? Are you willing to go $1000 in credit card debt to buy what you're hoping to buy? Will your January self be super angry at your October self for not choosing a number you could actually afford?
Choose a budget that January You won't be mad about.
Now you get to decide how to divvy that out, and I've created a cheatsheet for that very purpose.
Remember, money is a tool. It's a way you can create experiences and share love through gifts and hospitality, but it's not in charge. You get to choose how, when, and if to use it.
So spend on what matters, know what you have, and set a budget. You'll be shocked at how those simple, intentional steps can help you spend less.