With high un- and underemployment many people are looking for ways to get through the holidays with less. If you’re considering going into debt to make up the difference, remember debt is just a temporary fix that will come back to haunt you in the New Year. Instead consider options that let you enjoy the holidays and start the New Year without a debt hangover. Here’s my 5-step remedy to squeeze the most out of your money and enjoy a debt-free holiday: (Caution: This remedy may be a little hard to swallow at times but it is good for your wealth!)
Step 1: Start with the end in mind. Make a conscious decision that going into debt will not be a part of your celebration. In fact, hide your credit cards and pretend they don’t exist.
Step 2: Determine how much money you really have available to spend during the holidays. Look at your income and expenses to see what is available. If you’re not happy with the amount you find, look for places where you can cut back, at least for a couple of months. Or consider looking for a part-time holiday job. In either case, the amount you have is what you have. Here are a couple of articles I found on Bankrate.com with even more suggestions to save money for the holidays – http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/7-uncommon-ways-to-save-for-the-holidays-3.aspx and http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/10-ways-to-save-500-or-more-1.aspx.
Step 3: Get ‘buy ins’ from your family and friends. The taboo on talking about money is slowing lifting so talk to your family and friends. Tell them about your decision to have a debt-free holiday and the reasons you are doing it. Getting your circle of family and friends to agree and possibly even follow suit or at least set different expectations about what they will receive from you during the holidays can make the process smoother and more enjoyable for all. Even kids can be amazingly resilient if they know the reasons why so don’t keep them in the dark either.
Step 4: Get creative. Depending on how much money you found in Step 2, you may really need to get creative. But before you think it’s impossible, think back to the olden days when people had a lot less and they still managed to enjoy the holidays. There are so many low cost possibilities so use your imagination. Here are 10 suggestions to get you started:
- Use layaway for gifts so you can pay as you go.
- Draw names in your circle and give one nice gift.
- Set gift amount limits.
- Give homemade gift certificates for gifts of your time or talents or even special favors for the kids such as staying up one hour after bedtime.
- Get crafty and make gifts for your circle members.
- Share expenses – invite friends and family over for pot lucks.
- Plan family projects, games etc. that everyone can participate in. We are often so busy that we just don’t have the time to really enjoy our families.
- Encourage your kids to do extra jobs to earn money for gifts or things they want.
- Give to others – donate old toys and clothes or volunteer at a shelter. This is a great gift that you can give to others and it only costs a little of your time.
- Celebrate the spirit of the holiday. So many of us have moved so far away from the real purpose and made it about material things. Use this opportunity to really reconnect with the true meaning of the holidays and keep the spirit alive all year.
Step 5: Plan for the holidays all year long. I’m a big fan of planning for large purchases and I consider the holidays a large purchase. Once you have an idea of what you want to spend for the holidays, plan to set aside a portion of that each month in a special account like a high-yield savings account. INGDirect.com and SmartyPig.com are just two examples that don’t require a minimum deposit to get started. Then when the holidays roll around again, you will have the dollars to spend anyway you like.
Remember, it’s not written in stone that you have to go into debt to enjoy the holidays so just say no! ps!