You’ve made it through Black Friday and the Thanksgiving shopping weekend, hopefully with your pocketbook intact. I hope that you had a warm, fun time with friends or relatives. As we wheel into a fantastic stretch of holidays on the calendar, I know there’s little I enjoy more than renewing old acquaintances, enjoying new friendships and watching the pageantry of the season. It can truly be, to quote the classic holiday song, the “greatest time of year.”
This stretch can also be the worst time of year, though. I’ve spoken with people who see deals all around them and feel like they can’t take advantage of any because of money woes. A group stops off at Starbucks for a Peppermint-favored holiday drink and all you have in your pocket is enough for bus fare home. For this reason and others, the holidays can lead to depression and feelings of miserable loneliness.
Whether I’ve explained your situation or not, there are good ways to experience and enjoy this holiday season without spending every dollar you have. Much as the Grinch discovered, there is more to this time of year than presents and shopping. Here are some tips to help you beat the holiday blues:
1) Focus on the big picture. If you haven’t already, this is a great time to list your goals on a sheet of paper. Maybe that new sweater you can’t afford becomes less important when you remember that you really want a vacation in the next year, and to buy a new car in the next five. By remembering the important priorities you’ll refocus your holiday experience on people, rather than things.
2) List friends you’d like to see during the holiday season and reach out. Forget about presents for your friends. The best present you can give them is the gift of your time and attention. If someone slights you because you didn’t come with gifts, maybe you need to rethink whether they’re really a friend at all.
3) Volunteer. Groups always need help, but during the holiday season many charitable organizations have their hands full. Helping someone else in need not only makes the beneficiary’s holiday better, but you’ll be amazed at the effect it has on you, too.
4) Find community activities to celebrate the holidays. This is a great time of year for free and fun activities. Parks hold tree-lighting ceremonies. Community and school group offer holiday season concerts. Neighborhoods congregate. Dive in!
5) Scour the internet for “homemade” gift ideas. You’ll find many good ideas at sites such as Mother Nature Network that are inexpensive, unique and environmentally friendly.
6) Form a club to make inexpensive cards or address your cards together. By sharing resources, you and a group of friends can hand-craft gifts and cards much more cheaply than you can individually buying all the supplies. A friend of mine collects stamps and happily brings them to my home to share with the whole group. She gets to see us enjoy her collection and we get to all make cards without breaking the bank. This is a great time to network and enjoy friends while getting your holiday details accomplished.
There are many, many more ideas you can implement to create a warm, fun holiday experience. Most of these ideas are either free or incredibly inexpensive. Clients I’ve helped plan these and similar ideas in the past have told me afterward that it was the best holiday season of their life. Instead of all the stress and conflict that accompanies many holiday seasons, it was replaced with fun, friendships and community. The best part for me? As their financial coach, I saw them make it through the holidays with dollars still tucked in the wallet, ready for more important goals than a Starbucks Peppermint fix.