Four Strategies for Making Holidays Memorable Without Breaking the Bank

I love the holidays: the lights, the songs, the festivities. However, I really don’t like the busyness or the emotional and financial strain that often comes with them. Sometimes, looking at my December calendar makes my head spin. Seriously!

Over the years, I have learned to take a giant step back away from the emotional cliff of Christmas and, instead, focus on creating meaningful moments without breaking the bank.

#1 – Attend events, but set limits.

There is nothing more wonderful than sharing warm moments with family and friends. However, stress can be magnified when plans for gatherings are made at expensive restaurants or reservations booked for family weekend getaways.  The pressure to attend these functions is very real!  It’s enough to leave you distraught, confused, and emotionally devastated.

You can’t do it all – physically, financially, or emotionally. 

So, don’t try.  Be up front and honest with every single person who comes to you with a request or an expectation. Answer sincerely and with a smile.

#2 – Be generous, but don’t spend more than you have!

  • It’s okay to say, “I know that I’ve generally hosted the family dinner, but I am not going to be able to do it this year.” 
  • Look your co-worker in the eye and confidently say, “I am working really hard at getting my finances under control.  So, $40 is just too much for me at this time.  But, I’d be happy to chip in $20 toward that gift.”  
  •  Tell the cheerleading sponsor that you are so excited by the confidence you see being built in your daughter through being a part of the team, but the $30 for the party and the additional $30 toward the coach’s gift are just not in your budget.  If you feel it would be appreciated, then, by all means, offer to make some baked goods for the party or even help set up and tear down. 

When was the last time you opened a gift and said, “Wow!  This is great!  How much did it set you back?”  I would venture to say that never have such crass words come from your lips.  So, it is highly unlikely that any friend or loved one will utter them either. 

Set your budget and pay with cash.

No one else walks in your financial shoes.  No one else knows how much debt you have, how much money you make, or how you choose to spend it. 

If you are in the process of taking control of a runaway financial train, hold your head up!  You are no longer sitting back and allowing your history of monetary mistakes to rule your future.  You are taking charge, making changes, becoming a svelte super saver!  That’s something to be proud about!  Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise!

Related Content: 4 Easy Steps to Paying Cash for Christmas.  

#3 – Care for the needy, but choose wisely.

My husband and I have a conversation every year, in which we agreed on a predetermined strategy for charities during the Christmas season.  We really like and appreciate the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.  I have rung bells before and it is no piece of cake.  You get that bell into a pattern, walk about animatedly, and try to make eye contact with passerbys, in the hope that they will drop a few coins into the red kettle. So, perhaps, this is my my heart (and wallet) go out to the bell-ringers.

Here’s what we do:

We set aside a certain amount to give to the Bell Ringers.  We really don’t like to drop it all in at once.  We really like to bless each one that we can.  So, we plan to get our Salvation Army cash in one dollar bills.  We will carry it with us in a special place in our wallet and then give it to as many of the bell ringers as we can throughout the Christmas season, until it is all depleted.  If our kids are with us, we let them slip the money through the slot.  Even better!

I understand that the Yuletide season is when most charities make the bulk load of their yearly budget.  People are in a “giving mood”.  I am, too!  But, we set our budget, pick our charities, and gently tell the rest that our charitable giving fund is depleted for the year.   If you do this, it will set you free from any and all unnecessary guilt!

  #4 – Spend time with family and friends, but allow for margin. 

“You must attend every gathering”. Says who?!  No, you don’t!  Can you tell me if specific people were at your holiday work gathering last year?  Unless you are employed by a very small company, then probably not.  In general, people don’t really remember whether you were there, or, if they do, they assume that you were busy.  It’s the holidays, after all, and calendars and commitments fill up fast.

If your holiday calendar is giving you hives, then cut some items off of it!  I won’t tell anyone!  We need to create margin every month of the year, but it is especially important during the holidays.  I can’t live with an overly full calendar.  Look at December and deliberately plan some evenings for sitting on your sofa and sipping hot cocoa while reading a book.  You get extra points if you are doing it while the room is illuminated by the light of the Christmas tree.

This holiday season commit to:

  • Be authentic.
  • Be honest.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Set boundaries. 
  • Create margin.
  • Create memories. 

Need more help?

Creating Meaningful Holiday Memories on A Dime, I chronicle our family’s journey to provide our children with traditions that they ask for over and over again, without spending any money. It’s one of five free bonuses you receive with the Debt-Free Christmas Binder System.

Leave a Comment