The pressure to please everyone with gifts during the holiday season can be immense. But if you succumb to the temptation to overcharge your cards or dig into your savings, you'll start off the new year with a hole burned in your pocket.
Here are some tips to help you stay financially sound through the holidays.
The best way to avoid overextending yourself this holiday season is with a budget. Start with realistic assumptions about how much you can afford to spend and still pay off any balances on your January credit card bills.
If you think you'll have trouble sticking to your budget, try the cash-in-an-envelope method. Set aside an envelope with your holiday gift spending money, and only go shopping with the cash you intend to spend on that trip. That will force you to be purposeful with your spending and determined to keep within your budget.
Sometimes it's hard to say no, but does everyone need a gift this holiday season? Start allocating your budget to your closest family and friends, those you see every day and rely on most. Then work outwards to more distant family members, friends and co-workers. Not everyone in those outer rings needs a gift or even a Hallmark card. Instead, you could send a greeting email that still expresses your love and appreciation, but at little cost.
Things other than Money
You can get creative with gifts that express what you have to offer as an individual. A gift of your time and skills can be more thoughtful than something bought in a store. Piano lessons, a home-cooked meal, free baby-sitting and offers of repairs if you have craftsman skills are just some examples. Try to offer a gift that the recipient would readily accept with gratitude.
Don't Forget the Reason for the Season
Consider slowing down as the pace of the season picks up. A quiet night at home with friends and loved ones can be the greatest gift of all. (P.S. Make it a potluck so you don't have to buy all the food.)