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November 18, 2022 • Adulting

Every year we look to the holiday season with anticipation—and for some a little trepidation—as we wonder if we’ll be able to afford to do all we hope to. Between holiday celebrations, gift exchanges, trips to visit family and friends, the potential for overspending can be overwhelming.

A LendingTree survey reported that 36% of Americans took on around $1,250 in holiday debt in 2021. Each year, the percentage of holiday borrowers continues to rise. The temptation to give into high interest credit card offers wrapped in warm holiday photos of families gleefully opening gifts can be hard for some to resist.

Here is a recent question our Financial Coaches fielded to help members create a strategy for responsible (but fun and festive) holiday spending.

Q: I’m trying to budget for the holidays and even though I’ve been able to save some money throughout the year, my gift list and my budget feel like they are miles apart. Help!

A: For most people, the problem arises from the lack of a solid strategy for planning and spending responsibly during the holidays. Here are five tips to help you get and keep your holiday spending on track.

Focus on YOUR feelings. Research tells us that the parts of the brain that we use to imagine our future selves and parts we use to think about our “today selves” are different. That can lead to giving ourselves permission to make holiday spending a little disconnected from future obligations to pay off the debts we’ve created. Make a promise to yourself that you will take care of your own long-term financial stability and don’t give in to the fleeting emotional satisfaction of pleasing the people you love.

Plan early and take your time. They say time is money for a reason. Waiting until the last-minute work through your shopping list means you miss opportunities for lower prices, better deals, and cheaper shipping options. Start early and spend a few hours every week looking for deals and discounts. Taking the time to think can put money back in your pocket.

Share more experiences, buy fewer things. For most people, the best holiday memories don’t involve hours with a new gaming system, outfit, or ski gear. We remember time together, shared experiences, and the connection and joy they can bring us. Think about treating your family to a shared experience like a workshop, a cooking class, a special meal, or weekend getaway. Schedule the experience a few months out, and you can chip away at the cost over time, you can enjoy the experience when it’s time, without worrying about how you’re going to pay for it.

Make a list, check it way more than twice. A simple shopping list is a start and it’s a great way to keep notes about sales, discounts, special offers and more. A spreadsheet can do even more. You can record, manage, and calculate your spending so that you keep track of every dollar spent. Trying to keep things in your head almost assures you’ll forget something important.

Start NOW. The holidays come at the same time every year, but they often feel like a surprise. Put some money aside with every paycheck and by the time fall rolls around you’ll have money in the back and can avoid the temptation to rack up more debt. Set up an automatic withdrawal and you won’t even have to think about it until it’s time to start shopping.

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