Cures for Holiday Financial Hangovers
Tis’ the season of reflection, faith, and mall stampedes in the name of trendy toys. As of this writing, I’ve not yet purchased a single gift and I can feel the anxiety caused by my procrastination radiating up through my chest. I have a sneaking suspicion most of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The stress that accompanies the holiday season mainly comes from two sources: money and family. Why? I’ll tell you why. The average American spends $830 on holiday gifts. What’s worse is most Americans don’t prepare for these purchases ahead of time, and instead use their credit cards to buy those Bath & Body Works gift sets no one actually wants. The folks buying on credit spend a hell of a lot more too, averaging $986 on presents. Add on the expectations to host, cook, bake, wrap, decorate, visit, and explain your life choices to every aunt and uncle can make the holiday season more than a little taxing. The pressure to provide family and children with a “good Christmas” has shifted from creating happy memories to ensuring everyone gets the exact overpriced gadget they asked for.
I’d love to start a rebellion to fight the over-commercialization of Christmas, but I don’t really have the time right now. I’m sort of busy bringing down the patriarchy with my witty Tweets. Here’s a few things we can do instead to avoid a holiday financial hangover:
Be a Frugal Fannie
We all know about the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday deals, but if you haven’t finished your shopping (or started it) you can still find some solid discounts online and in stores. I found this site listing all the retailers offering free shipping throughout the holiday season (Don’t hate me if it’s not 100% accurate). There are also some pretty savvy coupon apps available, and those circulars I normally only use to light campfires actually have some sweet deals in them. Or you could go old school and make your gifts! Lastly, always shop with a plan. If you have an idea of what you’re purchasing for each family member, you won’t be as tempted to spend money all willy nilly.
Party at Home
One of the biggest money-wasting activities during the holiday season is going out to eat and attending parties that aren’t hosted in someone’s home. Americans now spend more going out to eat than we spend on groceries. This is proving to not only be bad for our health, but worse for our wallets. Trust me, you’re better off getting drunk on punch in the comfort of your own living room. You’ll spend far less money and only embarrass yourself among people you know. Although you may experience slight FOMO from staying in, you will appreciate the extra cash in your pocket.
If your gift giving list has reached max capacity, consider prioritizing and then making cuts. This isn’t as cruel as it sounds and chances are these people will feel relieved they no longer have to buy for you either. I suggest starting with close friends and your significant other, aka people who will understand. Bottom line, you have a lot of people to buy for, you aren’t Oprah, so cut the list down.
Use What You Already Have
Why do we feel the need to purchase new decorations every year? Store your decorations in a safe place where you can use them for multiple seasons. Or be like my family and use the same decorations for 50 years.
A few more tips:
- Save and reuse gift bags.
- I know doing dishes is the worst, but you can save yourself a significant amount by not buying paper or plastic ware.
- Perhaps instead of sending cards, send season’s greetings online. Write personalized emails instead.
- If you have to travel, try to go on off-peak times.
- Quit wasting money on expensive wrapping paper. It’s dumb. We literally tear it off and throw it away.
- Keep your receipts. You never know what you’ll need to return or exchange.
Enjoy the Sounds and Sights of the Season
Gifts are not what makes this season bright. Let’s place more emphasis on experiences than material items. Get out there and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the holiday season. Go to a Christmas tree lighting. Drive around looking at the pretty lights. Make some hot chocolate. There are so many free and cheap seasonal events happening to make special new memories, or experience a bit of nostalgia. My friends and I once attended the Boston tree lighting ceremony where R&B sensation Brian McKnight was going to perform a free holiday concert. Five seconds into his performance, the power went out and everything was ruined. It was hilarious. Bostonians were enraged they didn’t get to hear a Christmas version of “Back at One”. This disaster of an event remains a top five Christmastime moment for me.
Our favorite holiday memories are often intangible. Singing Christmas carols in an opera voice with my insane relatives, holding my little sister’s hair back as she vomited everywhere after stealing our Dad’s bottle of brandy, and the passive-aggressive family gift swap where we subtly exchange jabs over presents worth less than $20, these are the memories I cherish most. The point is, we’re much more likely to remember moments than gifts. So cut yourself some slack, focus on cultivating a great holiday atmosphere instead.
Soon enough we’ll all be swept out to sea due to climate change and you’ll realize the stress and money wasted on holiday presents wasn’t worth it, but you’ll still have your holiday memories. I’m kidding (kind of)! I hope you all enjoy this season of giving in a financially responsible way.
If you love us like we love you, please turn off your adblocker to throw some pennies our way, so we can keep on scolding. <3