Thanksgiving has recently passed and my very domesticated neighbors have already hung their holiday decorations. They look beautiful and I am officially now stressed. Between keeping up with the holiday decorating Joneses, to moving the Elf on the Shelf every night, finding the Elf every morning, going to holiday parties, drinking that 3rd Baileys at said holiday parties, talking politics with your in-laws and getting holiday gifts for everyone on your list, it’s no wonder most adults get sick during this time of year!
However, this year, I’m doing myself a favor and coming up with a game plan. To conquer the somewhat hostile holidays, I’ve compiled 7 practical tactics to help me and you stay on budget and more importantly, to stay sane this holiday season. Consider it my gift to you.
- Set a realistic budget.
Figure out exactly how much money you have to spend. Not how much you’d like to spend, but what you can really afford. And don’t forget to factor in wrapping paper, holiday cards and postage. Once you settle on a dollar amount for each person, that’s it. If you can’t afford a perfect purse for someone, get something else. Focus on the amount you’ll spend, not what you’ll buy. Say “NO” to toy lust. If Santa is still in the picture, give your kids choices for their North Pole bound wish list. Post Santa- set some financial boundaries and ask your kids to make a budget-savvy wish list for you.
- Make your holiday shopping list and check it twice.
After your budget has been set and you’ve started saving, it’s smart to write down what you think you’ll actually buy for people. I have a list on my IPhone, so I can update it on the go and it’s always handy.Be sure not to forget things like hostess gifts for parties you’ll attend, a gift for your boss and that family gift exchange you’re included in year after year. Plus, you’ll also want to add to list the people who will receive holiday tips, such as your doorman, babysitter, and mail carrier.For big families, develop a gift list with other relatives, advises Mark Gorkin, a licensed clinical social worker known as “The Stress Doc.” “You shouldn’t have to buy something for everyone,” he says and I agree!
- Do your homework.
You’re smarter than the average shopper, so don’t get caught paying full price. Do your research and create a “plan of attack” to help your money work harder for you. You’ll have to pay a small subscription fee, but Consumerreports.org has hundreds of expert reviews on everything from cameras to baby food. Or check sites with user reviews and ratings, such as Amazon.com or Cnet.com.
- Don’t wait till the last minute.
It didn’t work in college and it doesn’t work here. Procrastinating leads to rushed shopping and rushed shopping leads to overspending. Just don’t do it.Stores, like Cohen’s Fashion Optical have extended holiday hours to accommodate us busy shoppers and their expert eye stylists are ready to help you pick out the hippest designer and affordable eyewear styles, which make for perfect year-round gifts. Plus, most Cohen’s stores are conveniently located in your local high-end malls, so you can one-stop-shop without getting caught in the rain.
- Remember that a gift has more than one meaning.
Don’t overlook the value of intangibles. Have a busy mom friend on your list? Offer to babysit or walk their dog. Already baking cookies for your kid’s class? Bake an extra batch for your neighbor. Easy pesy.When in doubt about a gift to give, get creative. For example, my daughter and her grandfather often collect rocks. So for Christmas, we’ll be making a collage of all the rocks they’ve collected. Craft time with my kid + gift inexpensively checked off the list- win, win!
- Gift cards are liked by all
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect gift or you’ve run out of time, give a gift card. Although it may seem impersonal, people do enjoy getting exactly what they want with your money- trust me. Plus they make for great holiday stocking stuffers. I know that I was very excited to spend my Cohen’s gift card (https://www.giftrocket.com/gift-card/cohens-fashion-optical-new-york-4) on a pair of Chloe designer sunglasses I was eyeing for over a year. Thanks again, Uncle Skip!
- Above all, remember the reason for the season
Keeping your holiday’s spiritual message front and center for you and your family is one of the best antidotes to holiday overload. Spend quality time with your family and friends. Volunteer. Donate to a worthy charity. Make a snow angel and above all, be grateful.