‘Tis the Season (of holiday budget and boundaries)

December 3, 2021

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Cue the family gatherings, expectations, and spending! 

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Let’s talk about setting your holiday budget and boundaries. While it’s fun to experience the tradition and magic of the season, the holidays can be the most expensive and stressful time of the year. It’s hard to march to the beat of your own drum in the face of gift giving, party-going traditionalists. 

Here are some healthy, boundaried ways to manage the social and financial pressure of the season:

Make a Game Plan for your Holiday Budget

Here we are in December 2021 and the only way to live is to be honest about what works for you for your holiday budget and boundaries.

Saving for your dream home or to get in the market for the first time? Have a student loan that just won’t quit? Or maybe – hopefully! – you have investing goals that are important to you…

This year, we’re going to put you first. 

Here’s how to craft your Holiday Spending Game Plan (HSGP): 

  1. Decide the tone of your holiday 2021 experience and feel into it in your body. Joyful, generous, thoughtful, present? Take a moment to set an intention for this season.
  2. Get practical: how much extra cash do you have on hand for gifting this year? Let’s call that your HSGP.
  3. Write a list of everyone for whom you plan to give a gift and start brainstorming. 
  4. Add up the cost each and see if that fits both your intention and your HSGP.
  5. If not, it’s time to get creative! AKA keep reading… 

Managing expectations 

Yes, it’s usually uncomfortable to break the social mold. And yes, if you had endless amounts of money, the price tag of the perfect gift for each person you love wouldn’t be an issue. 

I totally get it. No one wants to be the person that says, “I can’t afford to buy gifts this year” or “I didn’t even want to buy you a gift to begin with!!” I’m here to remind you to be brave and hold your boundaries, because we know it will pay off! If you can, manage expectations by having a conversation before the gift-giving moment or by simply giving what you can and deciding well in advance that you are 100% okay with that!

Since this is a money column after all, please know that any gift suggestions that I make are based on being debt-free and having cash in the bank. When you’re in the middle of repaying debt and building your platform for wealth, it’s important to set limits. If it feels right to you, be creative and keep your spending low! 

Gifting within Your Holiday Budget

  1. Perfect for friends, near and far: Who would appreciate a card and a thoughtful note? (Hint: everyone on your list).
  2. Perfect host gifts: Pick out a crowd-pleasing wine/journal/candle and have a couple of on hand so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. Bonus points if, in advance, you pick up a 3 pack of crafty brown paper wine bags + glittery tissue paper at the dollar store for $1.50
  3. Perfect for an office gift exchange: a local, handcrafted pound of coffee or box of tea. Usually under $20, supports local companies and everyone at work needs a little pick-me-up!

Holding Your Holiday Budget with Your Family

Have a conversation with the important people in your life and suggest that you change it up this year. For example, you could say, “Hey mom, since we’re all grownups now and we don’t really need anything would you be OK if I organised a family secret Santa?” Your whole family will thank you. Let’s face it: no one likes the obligatory giving part of the season. We love the website Elfster to make Secret Santa-ing easy! 

Gift ideas in order of spending, from least to most

  1. Set aside some quality time to spent together. No phones, no distractions, just hanging with your person/people.
  2. Send a card with a thoughtful message (bonus points if you make your own cards with old family Christmas pictures on the front)
  3. Organize a Secret Santa so everyone gets one gift. Don’t forget to set a limit! (Give your person a restaurant gift card – pick somewhere that does brunch or lunch and if you’re feeling extra generous, throw in some babysitting)
  4. Host a cookie party (Invite your girlfriends over, bake all day and share the cost. Pick up some festive tins at the dollar store, et voila! You end up with many different cookies and beautiful homemade gifts)
  5. Treat your loved ones to a jar of my personal favourite, spiced nuts

Finally, a little holiday pep talk

May I remind you that you are the boss of you! No matter how lovely the gift, it does not have to symbolize how much you love the person you buy it for. You can love people with all of your heart and show it in many ways other than what you buy. 

Sometimes family members are just not on the same page. Some people really value the gift giving experience. There are people out there who may not be OK with a delicious jar of homemade sweet and spicy cashews. Yes, there are tons of emotions wrapped up in the holidays and money but we can all choose to take it lightly. We can take the brave position that people’s emotions are “100% their responsibility”. Know that after this holiday season, life will go on. 

Brene Brown would be proud. 

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I'm Robyn, the ginger behind the Local Health Collective

I'm a board-certified naturopathic physician, yoga teacher, mama, an idea generator, a cheerleader and I love to nerd about about all things health, wealth, and self-care related!

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