5 Things to Remember Before the Holidays

Deck the halls with pressured gift giving, fa la la la la… *credit card interest*
‘Tis the season to break the budget, fa la la la la la… *overdraft fee*
Don we now, no thought to savings, fa la la la la la… *opportunity cost*

I hope I don’t sound like a broken record when I say: your long-term financial goals matter much more than your short-term gratification. I won’t spend the next 500+ words scolding you to become a minimalist monk who shuns all Christmas cheer. Please continue to be yourself, but in the spirit of the holidays, I hope you remember these five things:
1. Be present and intentional
There are many reasons we forget to be aware of our surroundings, our family, and our loved ones. Perhaps your family is scattered across the globe and can’t all be together. Perhaps your dear Aunt Irene can’t be in the same room as your Uncle Henry and Christmas turns chaotic. Or perhaps you spent all of December running around stressfully looking for gifts. Whatever your reason, make this year special by listening to and really being present for your friends and family. Be there and show appreciation rather than purchasing it. It’s a costless gift to yourself and those around you.2. Deliberate acts of kindness

Notice I said deliberate, not random! Do one thing for someone else that means something to all involved parties. This does not have to be extravagant. You could give a back rub for your spouse, call someone with whom you lost touch, play with your pet, or simply make an effort to be nicer to coworkers. The good news is: it’s good for your health and disposition, it’s free, and it’s easy. By being deliberate and thoughtful, you will also achieve item #1.

3. Plan ahead

Everyone spends more when they buy things at the last minute. What do you do when you don’t have time to go to the store to make dinner? You order in food for at least twice the cost. I like to start planning by annualizing my expenses. This is because small expenses add up and it’s easier for me to understand my costs over the entire year, versus a few separate purchases. For instance, if I have 5 friends to whom I give gifts for birthdays and holidays and I always spend $85, for these 5 people I will have spent $850/year. If I also do this for family members, it’s now at least $3,000 per year in gifts. $85 may seem like nothing at the time, but it adds up. Or you can work backwards: If I want to spend $2,000 this year and have 20 friends and family members, then I need to spend a maximum of $100/person to stay under budget (or $50 per holiday, if I spent in December and on their birthdays). This is also a good way to budget for other categories of spending.

Another way to plan is to purchase gifts for friends and family throughout the year and save them for December. This works well because you are spacing out the gift expense while also planning for the winter holidays. Lastly, don’t forget some of the things you did for your family as a kid. If you have time to create something, get after it! I received a mason jar one year with all the dry ingredients necessary to make delicious cookies. It was a great gift! I love freshly baked cookies. There is still some time before Santa slides down the chimney or you’re lighting candles, so be sure to plan and make wise use of your time and money.

4. Sharing is caring

Whether your best skill is calligraphy, cooking or designing software, you have something to share! Every time my brother in law comes to town, he shares his golfing experience with me. Not only do we spend high quality time together, but I have also greatly improved my swing. Take the time to see what special skill you can share with someone you care about. Sometimes being generous with your time is worth more than a purchased gift.

5. Make memories not war

Old-fashioned compiling of photos and videos can be a very meaningful present. When we were teens, my sister made me a framed annual birthday collage with photos of us together from the past. She would even take the time to put birthday style wrapping in the background. The frames were always the cheap plastic ones from drug stores, with low monetary value, but the highest of sentimental value. I still have them in my childhood room.

Experiences are as good as gifts. My husband and I do not usually get each other gifts, but we always plan an activity together around the holidays. We also make sure to take photos throughout the year and compile our annual photo album, which is certainly a nice yearly present!

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday. See you in 2017!