The holiday season can be a time of friendship, laughter, and holiday cheer… and a time when you feel the expectation to spend a lot of money that you may not have. This is why it can be an especially difficult time for many people: the pressure to keep up with those around us, the fear of disappointing those we typically buy presents for, the stress of not being sure how you will afford food for the table let alone presents for under the tree.
Our debt solutions counselors at Grant Thornton Limited have shared some of their tips for trying to refocus this holiday season so you can make it more about enjoying the time with the people around you. Hopefully using some of these tips will help you feel refreshed in the New Year, as opposed to wondering how you will recover from the spends made in December.
- Talk to family / friends about the cost of gifts. Sit down and make decisions about a dollar limit for gifts. If money is tight then consider doing a secret Santa with the family. Remind everyone that thoughtfully chosen gifts are more important than expensive ones.
- Take advantage of the sales. Shop the sales throughout the year by making a “Christmas closet” that you can add items for people that you find throughout the year , or after Christmas and by discounted Christmas decorations. This is also useful if you have a drop in guest who brought you a gift and if you wanted to give them something in return.
- Have the kids make a list. Ask them to pick 3 items that they want: 1. One that is a real want, 2. One that is a need, and 3. One that is a small / inexpensive.item. Let them know that they will likely only get one item off of the list – this helps teach children that Christmas is about more than presents, they put real thought into what they want, and your pocket book gets to save by not buying them gifts they don’t really want or need.
- Cut out unnecessary items. This could include ribbons, bows, and fancy tape. Use brown paper bags as a fun alternative with colorful marker to write the “To” and “From”.
- Sell old toys / clothing. Find a local consignment store and get extra cash for new gifts.
- Do Christmas baking instead of gifts. This helps cut costs, and has the added benefit of spending time with family to make the bake goods.
- Take advantage of the free events to get into the spirit. Santa Claus parade, craft fairs, outdoor concerts and tree lighting ceremonies are usually offered at no-charge.
- Hold a “Catch up Christmas”. This one is great if you overspent last Christmas and your budget is super stretched. Consider not spending for one Christmas. Instead, focus on a nice family meal, taking in the Christmas parade, driving around seeing the Christmas lights, and really devoting your holiday to your family by giving your time. It enables you to spend quality time with your family and no one will be stressed because the focus is on time and making memories, not spending.
Other fun free activities include: a hot chocolate and Christmas movie night, ice skating at the river, or sliding in a park, take a drive around / walk around the neighborhood for Christmas lights. Center this Christmas on family activities instead of gifts and goodies.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to spend money at this time of year. Let’s try to take some steps to break that cycle, enabling us to end the year and start a new year with a fresh, positive, less stressful approach. Enjoy the loved ones in your life and the memories you can make rather than worrying about the debt we can incur.
If you have money-saving gift-ideas, we’d love to hear them. If you are finding this holiday season particularly stressful because you feel your debt load is overwhelming, please reach out to us and let us present you with some options for your situation during a confidential, no obligation consultation. Sometimes just knowing you have options can help relieve the stress you are feeling.
Kristi Stuart is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) on the New Brunswick Grant Thornton team. In becoming a trustee, she won the 2015 Jack Biddell Gold Medal for finishing the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professional’s 2015 National Insolvency Exams with the highest standing in the country.