t’s the time of year for giving as well as the season of peace. Keeping those two goals in sync takes some intentionally and strength. But the payoff is big - in dollars and holiday joy.
According to ESquared Inc., Americans rack up an average of $1,300 in credit card debt during the holiday shopping season only to report January as the most depressing month of the year.
Experts say getting honest about what really brings joy is a good first step to avoid that quagmire.
And since one in six people list an experience as their favorite gift ever, consider creating a memory for a loved one this season.
CREATE UNBREAKABLE TREASURES
Assess your budget and plan a gift that the recipient can look forward to and remember fondly. It could be anything from a vacation to tickets to a play to a class teaching a new skill to a day of biking a local scenic route with a stop for a homemade picnic. Let budget dictate your choice but the takeaway will be the same - the thrill of a new experience! And the joy of sharing it with a loved one if the gift includes the presence of the giver.
“Go back to being practical and creative with gifting. Don’t give in to the holiday hype,” advised Justina Royster, who with her husband Antonio leads the non-profit ESquared Inc. The organization seeks to engage, educate and empower through mentorship, including financial literacy.
A majority of gift recipients report it really is the thought that counts when it comes to gifts. There’s a reason the adage “you can’t buy happiness” is going strong. So shed the need to buy the latest and greatest in favor of a gift that warms the heart and brings joy and peace for the recipient - and the giver’s finances.
Set a budget for holiday purchases, advised Royster, and carry and adhere to a shopping list to avoid impulse buying. Shopping online might curb impulse purchases, she said, and as archaic as it sounds, so does spending cash.
“Participate in gift exchanges with friends or family or purchase gifts as a group,” Royster recommended.
This is not only better on the budget, it prevents the chance of giving unwanted trinkets in favor of a gift that the recipient might be less likely to purchase for herself.
GIFT YOURSELF PEACE
“One more warning would be to not get pressured into applying for credit cards while shopping during the holidays as it can not only decrease your credit score, it can also cause you to go into debt after holiday shopping/spending,” she said.
To maximize holiday financial well-being (and grow your money by avoiding paying interest) set up an account now for the 2023 holidays.
“You can open a holiday savings account and deposit $50 to $100, or whatever you can afford, from each paycheck,” said Royster. This step alone will make the holidays and the new year brighter, particularly given climbing interest rates.
Self-care in general during the busy holiday season contributes to balance in all areas, including decisions that impact the pocketbook.
“Make appointments for self-care activities in your calendar. Taking time out to exercise or get a massage, take a nap or read a book is time well spent to keep the stress down,” said Royster, a busy mom who emphasizes mindfulness of the mind-body connection, especially during this season.
Maintain healthy eating habits even though holiday celebrations invite us to overindulge. Try eating in portions or small amounts. Drink lots of water and take healthy snacks with you while out shopping. Limit sweets and remember that during the holidays foods and moods are related,” she added.
Unfortunately, holiday blues are not uncommon. Remember you’re the author of your holiday script and can say no to whatever doesn’t resonate. But don’t become a holiday hermit, advised Royster.
“Stay socially engaged if you are feeling sad because of a loss or disappointment, talk to your doctor, therapist or a trusted friend or family member. Don’t isolate yourself from social activity even if you don’t feel joyful,” she said.
Seek out the practices that foster peace, joy and meaning.
“Embrace your faith in whatever your beliefs are and cherish your most treasured holiday memories,” suggested Royster. “Volunteering during the holidays for others in need can be very satisfying. Work with a food bank, take a meal to a neighbor or family member or go to a senior center to visit the residents. At the end of the day there is no better sense of purpose and accomplishment.”
Finally, take out time each day to focus on all of the good things in life. Expressing gratitude gives your brain shots of dopamine and serotonin - the very best holiday cocktails!