Each holiday season arrives with its own joys and stresses. This year, many Americans are concerned (and rightfully so, given fears of recession and job and home losses) about how they’re going to get through it–and not just because of the usual familial pathos that accompanies such festivities.
Feeling the economic burden, most people are trying to figure out how they’re going to manage travel, gifts and perhaps some very difficult conversations with children and loved ones. Now, more than ever, we need to be creative about finding holiday cheer. Instead of trying to keep it status quo, we’re giving you some new ideas on how to manage the holidays so that you come out on top. It all comes down to the Three F’s: Finances, Family and Food–and if we can add a fourth: Fun! Yes, you can enjoy the most wonderful time of the year with a positive outlook and a little advance planning.
1. Manage your expenses. There are three things to say no to this year: Credit cards, parties you’d rather not attend and group gifting. Pay for all your purchases in cash (if you plan exactly what you’re going to get and adhere to your list, this should be a cinch) to avoid exorbitant interest fees. If you don’t want to go to Aunt Betty’s Christmas Eve Eggnog Extravaganza, politely decline. Avoid getting sucked in to the whole “everyone chip in $100″ for the boss/office party/ building super scheme. Simply offer your regrets and say it’s not in your budget, but that you’d be happy to offer a card or other smaller token instead.
There’s no shame to sticking to a budget, and there’s no need to drill deeper into debt because you’re being pressured. If you’ve been disappointed in the past over the commercialism that pervades the holiday season, this is the year to act against it. Have the holidays your way–without mountains of stuff and the bills that go with it!
2. Set expectations with family and friends. If you’re concerned about taking all the joy out of the season, relax. It’s OK to change the way you think about the holidays, as long as you bring everyone in on your thinking. Chances are you’re not the only one feeling the financial pinch, so it shouldn’t be hard to have an honest conversation with friends and older family members about what’s going to be possible this year.
3. Limit your list. Let’s be honest–how many people could do with a simple card? Pare down your gift list.
If you have a large family, scale back the amount of gifts or agree on doing a Secret Santa this year. It’ll probably relieve the pressure for lots of people. Remember that people don’t love you because of what you give. It’s OK to simply acknowledge their place in your life with a note of gratitude and best wishes for the season!