If you’re anywhere in Middle America, you know that this time of year is full of spending — more so than any other time of year. Not only is spending on gifts rampant, but activities fill up your calendar and family is making all kinds of demands. Even if you make a good income, it can be a lot to handle. And for those who are financially still getting on their two feet, this time of year can be really tough.
If you have less than what you wish you had to spend during the holidays (whatever that number is), here are 5 tips to help you experience joy and express gratitude for what you do have during this time of year. Celebrating the holidays with little money does not mean this time of year cannot be the most wonderful time for you.
5 Tips for Celebrating the Holidays with Very Little
1. Put people first
Instead of getting lost in the hustle and bustle of consumerism that has become a huge part of the holidays, focus on strengthening your relationships.
Think about the 80-20 rule. Under this rule, 20% of what you do produces 80% of your results. For the relationships that you care about, this means that 80% of what you do doesn’t affect the relationship. Think about the 20% that does matter and improve the relationship and focus on that. More likely than not, the amount of money you spend on a gift for someone is not in the 20% that really grows and strengthens your relationship with someone.
Recognizing that relationships improve based on things that money cannot buy, put energy into spending time with loved ones and creating memories that grow your relationship. By doing what really matters, you will focus on your relationships more closely and they will strengthen. This is much more important in life than any gift.
2. Prioritize the spirit of the holiday
Instead of focusing on the gifts you want to buy but cannot buy, focus on the meaning of Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate. What you focus on expands. If you focus on the spirit of the holiday, the true meaning of it will be the forefront, instead of gifts. This will rub off on the people around you as well.
You can do this by reading books or watching movies that demonstrate the history of the holiday. Or, by sharing stories about what’s most important to you during this time of year in terms of the meaning of Christmas. Whatever way you choose, find something that focuses on the spirit. That way the spirit of the holiday is naturally at the forefront instead of saying “no gifts” and making it an anti-gift holiday.
3. Focus on experiences
It is common knowledge that money spent on experiences is a better use than money spent on material items. The reason is that people benefit more from experiences (they are happier; more content). This fact works for you if you are working with little money during the holidays. Instead of focusing on material items, intentionally plan experiences. Obviously, you’ll want to plan very affordable experiences, but that should be very easy to do given the nature of the holidays.
Here are 7 ideas for experiences during the holidays:
- Cook or bake
- Plan a white elephant gift exchange
- Do a puzzle together
- Read a good book
- Play board games
- See holiday lights
Every one of these ideas can be very inexpensive and at the same time create a memorable experience. These are great ways to spend time with loved ones and work on your relationships while saving money.
4. Tell your family your financial situation
If you are tight around the holidays, tell your family. Be open and honest about your financial situation. More likely than not, they are going to be on your side and also want to lessen the financial burden on themselves in terms of spending on gifts.
Example: You may say something like “this year, I am getting on track financially, and unfortunately, that means there isn’t room for gift giving for everyone. However, I am so excited to spend time with all of you and propose we draw names for a secret Santa instead.”
Remember to keep it positive. People don’t have to agree with you, but it will be received better if you express yourself in a positive light.
5. Let go of being a people pleaser
While you might be wishing you had millions of dollars in the bank, that is not your reality. If you are struggling financially, be honest with yourself and make smart decisions. This means that you have to stop being a people pleaser. You have to make the decisions that are right for you, and let the cards fall where they may. Not everyone will understand your financial choices, but that’s okay. Recognize that you have to do what’s right for you and it is okay that you cannot please everyone.
photo by Kittisak via freedigitalphotos.net