5 Holiday Shopping Strategies — So You Can Avoid That January Money Hangover
There's no other way to put it: I love the holidays. I love the massive amounts of twinkle lights everywhere, the cheer that fills the crisp air, and the gifting spirit. And that love used to mean a deep reliance on my credit card during the final month of the year, which inevitably resulted in some New Year regret. I quickly learned how bleak January can be if you don't keep your spending in check during the holidays.
Now that I coach people on finances for a living, I see that there's a way to get into holiday mode without being a grinch to your bank account. Here are five ways to help you navigate the next month so you can roll into the New Year feeling fancy-free:
1. Know your values around gift giving.
Heading out and buying gifts without establishing some values around gifting can set you up for financial remorse. Do you only buy locally? Does it have to be a gift that gives back? Made from recycled material? Whatever it is, identifying your criteria gives you a filter and focus as you explore all the offers being marketed to you.
2. Be intentional.
Sometimes people put pressure on themselves to buy more expensive gifts for certain people because they think it's a sign that they care more. Or they set out to spend the same amount of money on each person to even the playing field. (Because of this, my sister and I often received the same gifts growing up although we couldn't be more different if we tried.)
Creating a set dollar amount that you want to spend this year is a great start, but this method can potentially lead to overspending and purchasing generic gifts you possibly can't afford.
Instead, I would start by identifying an intention for each person on your list. What do you want the gift to say? How do you want the person to feel when they get it? When you set an intention for your gift, you place the purpose of the gift ahead of the price tag, and that is a mental shift that will allow you to say what you want to say on any budget.
3. Set a kickback budget.
Getting wrapped up in all of the "deals" out there can lead us to overspend, even when we've set a budget. The best way to navigate that? Reward yourself for sticking to your gift budget with a "kickback" budget. Meaning, you get to reap the rewards when you stick to your plan. You can do this one of two ways: identify a small money amount you get rewarded for each gift you buy in budget ($1 to $10...whatever is affordable to you) or allocate an amount of money toward something for you, like that beach vacation, when you stick to your numbers.
4. Use the "hell yes" method.
It isn't just buying gifts that causes financial stress during the holidays; it's also the end-of-year parties and dinners that we feel obligated to attend. I once had a coach tell me if it wasn't a "hell yes" then it was a "hell no," and holding yourself accountable to that mantra is pretty life-changing. Drop the "should" and only commit to the things you are truly excited about and can afford. Your bank account and your energy will thank you.
5. Set clear boundaries with money.
Lastly, let's get something straight: Your self-worth is not tied to your wealth. Unfortunately, that can be a hard lesson to fully embrace, especially during the gift-giving season. The holidays should not be about putting yourself into debt to show your love for someone. The best thing you can do during the holidays to honor yourself and your future is set some clear financial boundaries. If your loved ones are judging you based on the amount of money you are spending, then we have bigger fish to fry!
Not sure where to start? Make a list of five things during the holidays that affect your bank account and stress you out. These are areas where you might need to set more boundaries.
Brianna Firestone is a Financial Education Instructor certified by the National Financial Educators Council. Her expert advice has been featured in Money.com, Real Simple, and Business Insider. Firestone received her bachelor's in theatre from Stephens College and lives in Denver, Colorado.