Overspending at Christmas can be so easy to do and has happened to nearly all of us!
Commercials suggest the perfect piece of jewelry to give her, the newest gadget to give him, and the latest toys for the kids. Stores only add to the temptations by having so many “ready to give” gifts on tables in the aisles and on counters that seem too good of a deal to pass up – cashmere sweaters just under $100, make up sets and ties for less than $50, “exclusive” toys on sale for just one day… Even when you have a budget set, following it can be so hard to do – what’s another $10 or $20 here or there?
A little here and little more there adds up, and leads to overspending, which can cause friction in our relationships as well as our bank cards. Since we all have different feelings about money, and how it should be spent, so it can be hard to find common ground. I know one couple where the husband grew up a bit on the less fortunate side and got things he needed for Christmas, but the wife grew up with over-the-top Christmas’s where needs were never an issue. When experiences are that varied the stage is set for clashes over spending priorities.
Not only do we have to worry about how we are going to spend the money we have, but we have to worry even more about how we are going to pay for everything when we do overspend. Free spending during the holidays can make our new year get off to a really bad start.
So to keep the peace this season (both inner and relationship peace), here are a few tips to prevent overspending and get your new year off on the right foot:
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1. Talk about your money (just with yourself or with a partner).
This can be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone – even those of us who have been together a long time. Money is tied to some strong feelings and beliefs, even though in reality it is pretty black and white. Try to agree not to spend what you do not have. Just coming to an agreement on your philosophy about spending money before discussing specific spending topics can really help to alleviate stress and put you both in a better position to plan your spending as a team.
2. Make a budget for gifts.
Okay, this one is obvious, but it can be hard to put into practice. Together talk about what gifts you want to buy for family, friends, and yourselves. Don’t just make a list and check it twice – you need to stick to it! So decide on how much your budget will be overall, and then a maximum for each person. There are many apps out there that can help you manage your list and keep track of spending, but even a simple paper checklist will do it.
Also keep in mind what those in your life really want and like. Just because you set a maximum amount to spend does not mean you have to spend that. If they asked for a $15 item, then get just that. And if you planned on buying a sweater that was $100 and is on sale for $75, that doesn’t mean you have to go spend that saved $25.
3. Plan for and decide on what activities you want to do as well.
Things like The Nutcracker ballet, new movie releases, a swanky New Year’s Eve dinner all add up and contribute to overspending. If you really want to have New Years Eve dinner at a fancy place, and your partner wants to go to the ballet, find a way to compromise, or figure out what you are willing to sacrifice elsewhere in your holiday budget. Planning these activities and their expenditures ahead of time will enable you both to enjoy holiday activities rather than the money.
4. Ignore what your friends and family are spending.
It can be very hard to have a sibling or friend who is well off and spends money without worry, especially when you have to, and not have their spending negatively influence your plans. A way to address this common problem is to talk to others in your life and see if you can come to an agreement on a dollar limit or even draw names so more can be spent on one gift for each person.
This is the time of year to enjoy the holidays and being with loved ones. With an open and honest discussion about money, either with yourself or a partner, and a spending plan for you to work with, you can make it a stress-less holiday season. And best of all you won’t have to be dreading having face those runaway bills in January!
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Author: Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.