Overspent Over the Holidays?

Useful strategies for planning ahead and having what you need, when you need it, for holiday shopping NEXT year!

Planning ahead and having what you need, when you need it, for holiday shopping NEXT year!

The holidays may have just ended but now is a good time to begin thinking about next year. Holidays, as much fun as they can be, can also be very stressful for families. Here are 5 tips to help keep you sane (or more sane anyway) through the holiday season next year:

1. Set a budget

Do this NOW! If you wait until the holidays or near the holidays you do not have time to set aside savings specifically for gift giving. Sit with whomever you manage your finances and decide what you would like to spend on each person on your list and then determine what you need to save each pay period from now until the end of the year. This will ensure you are not strapped when buying presents next holiday season. It helps to add birthday presents into this budget as well. For many of us, it is best to determine what we are able to save based on our income and expenses and then determine from that amount how much we are able to spend on others. Either way, pick a reasonable, amount and don’t go over it. You may even consider opening a separate savings account to store this money in for the year.

2. Don’t be afraid to set limits

Many people feel that they have to spend a certain amount on others for the gift to be considered significant. This is just not the case! The significance of a gift should be found in the thoughtfulness of the giver. Inform your loved ones as to what your budget is and ask them to provide you a list of items that fall within that budget limit. If your loved ones are not happy about this it is time to do some training around gift giving and where the true value lies. If your child wants something that falls outside of the budget have them contribute to it. If they are too young for a formal job let them earn money by helping out around the house. Even very small children can do many things to be helpful. I’d recommend the tasks be outside of their “ordinary chores or responsibilities”. Let them know how much money they will make by accomplishing each task and help them keep track of what they are earning. This also helps them value the gift more because they earned it. They also learn a valuable lesson in working for what you want, which we all know is critical to success in life.

3. Don’t feel like you have to give your children a ton of presents

You determine what is appropriate for your family. For some families this is 3-5 presents per child, for some it is more. I would encourage you to make this age appropriate for the child and more importantly within the boundaries of your budget. Remember too, that when children are small gifts may be less expensive but if they are used to getting 10 presents they may be disappointed as they age and have less presents as the cost of each present increases. Make the number of gifts you give sustainable at least until they are able to understand the value of money and the need for limits. As your children begin to understand the value of money share the gift budget with them. This produces financially savvy adults later in life and also children who understand the value of how hard you work to provide them with good things. It is also realistic for them to understand that just because they want something doesn’t mean they can necessarily have it (a hard lessen but one we all must learn).

4. Provide “experiences” as a gift

If you have the opportunity to take a family vacation each year (or at any time) or if you can take a special day trip or outing, such as going to see zoo lights, or sledding, or having a “party” on New Year’s Eve. Anything, really, that is time spent together. Inform the children of this at the holiday as being one of their gifts. You may even print out a description of the outing and wrap that as a gift. This gives them something to look forward to and also places value on time spent together as a family rather than solely on material things.

5. Create the version of Santa that best fits your family

One parent recently asked about how to handle “the issue of Santa”. Her child told her “Santa has all the money in the world” while he was asking for a $300 gift that she could not afford (he is 5 years old). She was stumped as to how to answer her child not wanting to disappoint him. Something additional to consider is that Santa brings your children equivalent gifts to those of their peers so as to ensure one child does not feel Santa favored another child more because the gift they received was more lavish. I encouraged this parent to help define for the child who Santa is. When we discussed this the parent was concerned it was “too late” as her oldest child was 5 years old. I encouraged her to begin discussing this with her children now and reminded her that if it hasn’t come up before this it is most likely the perfect time and not “too late” at all.

One option that can be helpful is to tell your children that Santa brings one present to each person and the parents give the rest. Some families may choose for this to be the child’s most special present. Another option that can be helpful is just the opposite, tell your children that Santa brings 2-3 small presents and the most special presents come from parents. Whatever you decide remind your children that “Santa has all the children in the world to give gifts too and because of this all the money in the world is not available” for just them. Most importantly go back to tip number 1 and stay within your budget.

If you are, or someone you know is, struggling with overspending, compulsive shopping, or feels overwhelmed by post holiday stress, contact us at Barrington Behavioral Health and Wellness.

Phone: 1-888-261-2178
Email: help@barringtonbhw.com

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