It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and that can lead some of us to pull out all the stops to meet our family’s expectations for the joyful holiday of our dreams. But if we take that as a license to spend with abandon, the aftermath can be messy.
That’s because overspending during the holidays can harm your financial mental health, making it hard to enjoy the season or start with a clean slate in 2022. And it’s easy to get carried away: The average holiday debt was $1,381 last year. Consumers have another stressful challenge this year, with many retailers predicting inventory shortages, empty shelves and delayed shipping caused by supply chain turmoil. That could lead shoppers to pay more than expected to get the item they want or to find a reasonable replacement.
How can you celebrate an exciting holiday season that preserves your financial mental health? The secret is in the planning. Here are three areas where you can save this year that will allow you to partake in everything that makes the holidays special, while still starting 2022 off right.
How to save on gift giving
For most consumers, presents are the biggest budget buster. Start by writing down everyone you’ll be gifting and a price range for the item. Is the list a little longer than you expected? We have you covered with some ideas to slim it down:
- Regift: This former “don’t” is now present-perfect advice, given younger generations’ affinity for thrifting as an eco-friendly solution to excess. You can find just the right gift online at a resale site, or even regift something you already own—but only if you truly believe the recipient would want it. It also can be the perfect antidote for expected supply chain disruption as these goods are readily available.
- Go for a group gift: Instead of giving aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews separate gifts, choose a family gift, like a puzzle, personalized art, or even a basket of sweet treats you’ve baked yourself. They’ll appreciate that you thought of them and it won’t break the bank.
- Take the savings and run: When you find the perfect gift at a surprisingly low price, it’s tempting to overcompensate and reallocate that money to hit the budget figure you’ve targeted. For example, if you find a beautiful sweater that’s half price, you might decide to add on a cookbook to round out your sister’s gift. Don’t. Wrap up the sweater and enjoy your sister’s glee when she opens it. She’ll never know how much you spent or intended to spend.
How to save on decorating
Want a holiday extravaganza to rival those you see in the movies? Don’t do it…your pocketbook, electric bill, and neighbors will all thank you. Here’s what to do instead:
- Embrace the faux: Live trees can be costly and hard to manage. This year, invest in an artificial tree you can use year after year that will offer the same ambiance. If you miss the “fresh” smell of an evergreen, get a simple candle or plug-in freshener that will replicate it.
- Repurpose existing items: Instead of buying all new décor, make creative and beautiful displays from what you already have. For example, assemble all your clear glass bowls or vases and fill them with glass ornaments from a dollar store for a dazzling centerpiece.
- Give your whole house a holiday vibe: Back to the dollar store you go, this time for wrapping paper. Now, take down all the artwork on your walls, wrap it like a present and hang it back up for a festive touch to every room.
How to save on celebrating
So many options, so little time…and so much money to enjoy them all. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Here’s how to enjoy the season to its fullest without maxing out your budget.
- Pick the traditions that matter most: Last year’s limits related to COVID-19 precautions presented a great opportunity to reset, as most of the activities you might have enjoyed were off-limits. That gives you the freedom to decide what you really missed to add back in and what has just been an obligation. Maybe you’ve always gone to the Nutcracker ballet but realized that dressing up and sitting in a theater is no longer for you. You don’t have to feel guilty for breaking a tradition that already was interrupted last year and instead can focus your time (and money) on more meaningful activities.
- Choose free activities: There’s no time like the holidays to find free fun. Search out events in your community, like tree lightings or sleigh rides, where all you spend is a few dollars for a hot chocolate. Then look closer to home to engage friends or family in a holiday movie marathon or a hotly contested dreidel match.
- Give everything a holiday spin: Another fun thing about the season, especially if you have littles, is that even everyday activities can be spruced up to feel merry. Turn your morning pancakes into latkes; call your car a sleigh and turn up the holiday tunes when you head out for sports practice; and replace all the nightlights in your house with seasonal-colored bulbs.
A streamlined holiday season can be just as magical as a frenzied one where you overspend, and lead to a far happier 2022. The best part is you’ll be a step ahead on your financial mental health.