Are you stressed out about the holidays? Do you have a long list of family, friends, and co-workers that you would like to buy gifts for? Instead of stressing about the holidays, start thinking outside of the box about ways to give gifts that fit your budget.
Patrice C. Washington, personal finance author, speaker, coach and blogger advises people not to get overwhelmed by the holiday season. She states, "if you're already in debt, please don't let the holidays make it worse! Trying to please everyone is not worth your sanity or the risk of taking more baggage into the New Year."
Patrice shared with me her "7 Tips to Spend Less and Erase the Anxiety & Stress of the Holidays:"
1. Get a plan together. Write down any and everything you can think of from where you plan on spending the holidays to who you plan on buying a gift for and what you want to get them. Make sure you put a dollar amount next to everything that needs to get done. Being clear and sticking to a predetermined plan will reduce your anxiety by getting a million 'To Dos' out of your head and on paper. You'll also save money by staying focused and not buying impulsively.
2. Arrange travel accommodations early. As soon as you confirm that you're definitely visiting family or friends out of town, begin pricing airline tickets and rental cars. The earlier you purchase, obviously the better. You may also want to consider taking the train to your destination. Trains are cheaper, less of a hassle and a lot nicer than many believe. Although they take much longer, you might be able to use the time to enjoy the scenery, settle yourself and get ready for your relatives!
3. Make something personal. Use your talents and skills to make one of a kind creations for the people you choose to bless with a gift. If you're an artist, paint a personal masterpiece. If you're a singer, make a CD for loved ones. If you're an accountant, give someone a gift certificate to help them set up Quickbooks. Be comfortable with thinking outside the box and finding the gift that lies within you.
4. Limit gift giving to your children and significant other. With so many people facing financial challenges this year, feel free to let yourself and others off the hook. Maybe you can splurge a little more on beautiful holiday cards or take a cute family snapshot and turn it into a festive postcard to share with co-workers, distant family and friends. But, other than that, call it a day and don't look back. Anyone who truly values you in their lives will not be upset about a Christmas gift. More than likely, they already see you as a person they can count on all year round.
5. Buy sporadically. Use your plan from point #1 to determine what the total estimated cost of the holidays will be and divide that number by however many paychecks you expect to receive by then. Take that specific amount from each paycheck from now until Christmas and try to take care of a little at a time. Don't ever blow an entire paycheck on gifts! Remember, real life doesn't stop just because the holidays come around.
6. Start buying holiday food early. If the festivities are at your place, start stacking up on all the items you'll need as early as possible. Believe it or not, despite the sales advertised, many grocery store chains are known for bumping up prices around the holidays. They know you won't go without your holiday favorites, so why wouldn't they? Stock up a little at a time and you'll be able to save overall. Not to mention, advance planning will keep you from taking a million trips to the grocery store and battling the long lines.
7. Play Secret Santa. Draw names of close friends and family members and arrange a potluck and gift exchange. This will allow you to save tons of time, money and stress. Each person will be responsible for bringing one gift and one dish. You can make it a game night and have tons of fun and spend way less than being responsible for a bunch of gifts and all the cooking.
A couple of years ago my siblings and I decided not to stress out over getting each other gifts. If we did then great, but if not, then that was OK too. As our families grow, our wallets shrink, and the less stress to buy someone else a gift is always helpful.
Last year, around Thanksgiving time our family drew names from a hat for Secret Santa. We even allowed relatives to switch gifts after presents were opened. This added a spin on the traditional gift giving and was a lot of fun.
So stop stressing about the holidays. Use Patrice's tips to enjoy the holiday season and create long lasting memories and not stress.
Patrice C. Washington is a personal finance author, speaker, coach and blogger at www.SeekWisdomFindWealth.com where she gives money advice with an urban twist. After digging herself out of $18,000 worth of college credit card debt, she’s on a mission is to eradicate financial illiteracy among women, youth and people of color. Patrice’s forthcoming book series, Real Money Answers, is based on several years of coaching and counseling women on credit and money management which she now offers for free in the Metro Atlanta area.”
Sojourner Marable Grimmett is an Atlanta-based author who is recognized for writing about the joys and challenges of being a “stay-at-work” mom and connects with moms, both new and experienced, who have the responsibility of raising a family and maintaining a full-time job. Sojourner has been featured in FitPregnancy, iVillage, MacaroniKid.com, WhatToExpect.com, and BlackandMarriedwithKids.com. She is married to her college sweetheart, Roland and they have two young sons, Roland Jay and Joshua. Visit her blog sojournermarablegrimmett.blogspot.com follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.