As far as financial fears go, holiday debt hangover ranks high on my personal list, right up there with unknowingly dinging my credit or a long-lost twin stealing my identity and draining my bank account.
To avoid falling into the red due to holiday spending, I scrimp as much as possible. Last year, I saved by inadvertently breaking the rules. For my cousin’s annual Christmas gathering, we agreed to buy presents for the kids in the family, and to do a Secret Santa among the adults, or so I thought. It turned out everyone agreed to do a Secret Santa on top of the usual gift exchange. Whoopsies.
After explaining and profusely apologizing, my family was cool with it. It got me thinking: Is skipping holiday gift-giving the worst thing to do?
That’s right. I’m saying have a no-gift holiday. It will definitely help your budget. But how do you go about doing that? Here’s my advice.
Don’t give in to peer pressure
This is easier said than done. Even if you can ignore end-of-year deals, it’s the social expectation that tugs. Your loved ones may think you’ve turned on them, or something is wrong. But try it out. Even if you don’t get a stamp of approval, it might not be as bad as you think.
Make a pact
Try making a pact with others beforehand. You could craft an email saying you want everyone to have a simpler, less stressful holiday, so you won’t exchange gifts this year. Make sure you’re on the same page, whether discussing in person or online. You probably have friends and family who feel similarly, but may be afraid to speak up.
Author of Money Smart Latina, Athena Lent, and her longtime boyfriend, Harlan, agreed to skip gift-giving all year long. She was in the middle of cancer treatment when they realized their anniversary, Valentine’s Day and Harlan’s birthday fell within a three-week window. Lent asked if they could forgo gifts — including those for Christmas — that year and take a trip when she was feeling better.
“Be honest with your partner, yet tactful,” said Lent. She estimates saving about $300 on holiday gifts alone. “If your partner wants to still exchange gifts, maybe decide on one small item or do it for special occasions that aren’t tied to consumer holidays.”
Have kids in your family? It could be hard to skip out on giving them presents during the holidays. Instead, try nixing gift-giving just among the adults and only buy the kids in your family a gift.
“As Christmas seemed more like a holiday for kids, my siblings and I agreed not to purchase gifts for each other, just for the children,” said Faith Sams of Prosperity and Participation. “This is a conversation that someone can bring up once kids start coming into the world.”
Figure out ahead of time which kids or other relatives you still need to buy for and factor that into your budget. (Here’s an easy budgeting spreadsheet that can help you get your finances in a good place ahead of holiday shopping.)
Remember those cute little coupon books you gave your parents to exchange for chores around the house? If you’d rather offer your time to save your budget, bring IOUs back this holiday season.
“There’s nothing wrong with not buying a gift,” said Philip Taylor of personal finance blog PT Money. “But you can still give something: a few kind words in a card, a promise for a future experience or date, a service offering such as cooking a meal, doing random chores around the house or handiwork.”
Want to make a gift? Check out this list of DIY holiday gifts to get some ideas.
Stick to your beliefs
It’s not the easiest thing to do, but don’t cave in to social pressure.
“Gently let your family know that you’ve decided to embrace a less consumer-driven holiday,” said Jessi Fearon, a personal finance coach and writer. “Stick to your plan, thank them gratefully for the gift, but don’t run out and buy them something just because you feel guilty.”
This is something I’m prone to. In the past I’ve bought extra gifts in case I forgot someone on my list. Here’s the thing: If you make it known you won’t buy gifts, it’s not on you if someone else wants to get you something.
Enjoying a no-gift holiday isn’t easy, but it’s doable. By setting expectations beforehand, coming to an agreement and finding clever alternatives, you’ll skip the stress of chasing after those year-end deals and start your new year budget in a solid place. Bring out the party hats, because that definitely calls for a celebration.
Can’t skip out on buying gifts? Try this guide on sticking to your gift-giving budget.
This article originally appeared on Policygenius and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.
Featured Image Credit: JackF.AlertMe