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It is an unfortunate truth of living in a consumer society that we are often encouraged to spend our hard-earned money, and at no time is this more prevalent than the holiday season. Although the historical reasons that people choose to celebrate at this time of year are generally based in religion, it seems that manufacturers and advertisers have found a very effective way to link the feelings of familial devotion that center on the holidays to the desire to purchase gifts (you know, as a way to show love). Sadly, just about everyone seems to have bought into this mentality, although every year you’ll hear people grumble about how corporations have subverted the holiday season and turned it into a consumer event.
As a result of the massive ad campaigns that urge consumers to buy, many families will go into debt in order to ensure that no one feels left out. Some people even go so far as to dip into savings and max out credit cards in a bid to make everyone happy. And then there is the emotional cost that comes from feelings of guilt over getting the wrong gift or not having spent the proper amount on this person or that person, not to mention the stresses associated with shopping. It’s enough to make anyone swear off the holidays completely. Which is why, dear readers, we must take back the season by controlling our own finances and gifting with our hearts instead of our bank accounts!
So here’s the skinny on keeping your finances in order during the holiday orgy of spending. First you’re going to have to create a budget. This is actually easier than you think, so don’t give up before you even start. Take a look at your finances and consider how much you can spare for gifts. Whether all you manage is $100 total or you are prepared to shell out several thousand, there are ways to manage. Even those that don’t have two nickels to rub together can still orchestrate a fulfilling holiday for the family, if they are smart and determined to stick to the plan.
People who really can’t afford to spend anything may be able to take advantage of charity during the season when most people suddenly develop an air of altruism. There are many organizations that collect toys for needy kids and foodstuffs for families that could use a handout. If you number amongst the needy this holiday season, do not hesitate to take advantage of these services, especially if it means you’ll come out ahead in the New Year rather than deeper in debt!
Those who have some money obviously have more options, but still you should work to temper your spending by determining set dollar amounts for certain gifts. Just for example, you may opt to spend $50 on each immediate family member, $20 for close family and friends, and $5 for coworkers. Of you might give gifts only to your nuclear family and bake cookies or send cards to everyone else. But if you want to stick to your budget for certain, think about giving gift cards, which can be purchased in specific dollar amounts. You can get them from all kinds of vendors, but you can also opt for the best prepaid debit cards from Visa, which can be used at a number of locations. And if you want to make the holidays special for others, as well, think about making a donation to a charitable organization in the names of your loved ones rather than giving out gifts they may not even want.