The do’s and don’ts
If you want help setting up a holiday budget email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The holidays use to be my least favorite time of year. I felt an immeasurable amount of pressure. Embracing my grinch-ness. But the truth is that present expectations always made me feel really bad about myself. For most of my life I couldn’t afford to give gifts. I remember in high school attempting to buy gifts for my friends, you know those friends; who always seem to know what to get you. Asking my parents for money to buy my friends gifts was not an option. So, I would take my babysitting earnings and go to Bloomingdales and Tiffany’s and buy my friends birthday and holiday gifts (how absurd is that)! I don’t know if they ever knew I saved up for weeks hoping and stressing to have enough money. I don’t think it concerned them the level of anxiety I got when receiving presents, knowing I’d probably go into negative trying to match them, trying to ‘keep up.’ While those moments haunt me I did invaluably learn at a very young age the power of persuasion. Learning how to convince the bank clerks to waive overdraft fees was one of my specialties by the age of 15. If only I used that to negotiate prices, I would have been the thriftiest kid around.
If you want to understand your relationship with money, just look at your childhood. I never felt enough and I always felt like I was behind. Like I always had to make up for something. I still feel those emotions every now and again but mostly I focus on what I can control and what I enjoy giving. The truth is, I’d rather give my time then give my wallet. When I do give gifts, I follow these do’s and don’ts.
Do: Make a list and check it twice. Who do you really need to buy gifts for. If you’re in debt, I want you to be really considerate of who you feel the need to buy a gift for.
Don’t: Forget the holiday parties. When you plan for a white elephant gift you’re likely to spend less than a last minute purchase.
Do: Make a budget for EACH person. That means literally writing a number for how much you want to spend on your mom, dad and best friend.
Don’t: Get consumed by the sales. Guess what, there will always be a sale. What do you need, what do you want? Don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal. If something you want happens to be a good deal then Mazel Tov! If it’s just a good deal, then skip it.
Do: Limit your spending on other categories. The easiest way to get yourself in debt is not preparing the rest of your budget for your increase in gift spending. You have holiday parities; you might want a new dress, updated make up. So where can you cut corners. Can you train it, instead of taking a cab everyday? Can you stay in a couple of nights instead of going out? There has to be sacrifice. You can’t have your cake and Alexa too.
Don’t: Spend what you can’t afford. Look at how much you’ll be making in December then minus your non-negotiable and reoccurring bills (ex. rent, phone, netflix). That will leave you with the rest of money you have to spend for the month. Don’t forget about eating, in NYC food cost roughly $40 a day.
Do: Have honest conversations with your partner and loved ones. It blows my mind when people who are in debt, go out and spend hundreds of dollars on gifts to their significant others. My boyfriend and I capped our Hanukkah gifts to $25. It makes us think outside the box and the gifts tend to be more thoughtful and thought-out. There is no reason to have uncertainty on how much they’ll spend for you, have a conversation.
Don’t: Match another person’s present. Give what you can afford. If someone gives you something expensive, don’t feel obligated to reciprocate. How someone else chooses to spend their money has NOTHING to do with your bank account.
Do: Write a thoughtful card. In years when the money was slim, I would write cards to my mom, grandparents, sister and friends. It was my way of feeling I gave them something from my heart, that cost me less than a coffee.
Don’t: Buy the $10 cards. The easiest way I’ve overspent was walking into Paper Source and walking out with $50 worth of cards.
Do: Invite friends over for dinner. Throw potlucks, bring people together.
Don’t: Wait until the last minute and go to a restaurant with your friends to celebrate the holidays. Make a choice on how you want to spend your money, and decide it before you say yes to plans.
The holidays should be a time of togetherness but it’s so stressful and high intensity for too many of us. Don’t put yourself in a bad situation, or in a place where you can’t succeed. Do invite in as much love and companionship that you can find. Be generous of your time and space. Give financial security to yourself first before gifting others. Give Presence instead of Presents.
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