Ways to stop 2020 from wrecking your Holiday Joy, and Budget

We all know that 2020 has been a no good, very bad year.  I suppose we can take some solace that in just a few short weeks and it will be over. 2021 can’t be as bad, right?  But before we get to the New Year, we have the Holiday Season, aka the season of giving. Like many others, our budget is stretched thin due to the loss of income from The Virus, and I am trying to figure out how to make the Holidays magical for our family while staying out of debt. I knew I’d have to do things differently than I had in the past, so I reached out to Nev Harris. Nev teaches people how to understand their money and to realize that money talk doesn’t have to be scary or boring, (Especially for freelancers like myself who are struggling during these hard times to stay afloat). Here are some tips he shared with me:

Set a Budget- but in a way that gives you freedom- Start by deciding what you can afford to spend right now without going into debt.  Use strategies like sales, coupons, and deals and think about gifting outside the box.

Shop early- This year, it’s especially important with the pandemic wreaking havoc on supply chains and the need for social distancing to start shopping early. Many stores aren’t doing the typical Black Friday sales after Thanksgiving Dinner, but they’ve already started running Black Friday Deals and will continue on through Christmas.  Let’s face it, fast shipping and more inventory are not likely to happen in December- so try and buy things as early as you can.

Focus shopping-   This means having a list, knowing what you want, and sticking to it.  Who doesn’t love to browse online stores late at night or walking aimlessly around down store aisles?  There are two cardinal rules to save money when shopping: don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry and don’t go Christmas shopping without a list.  And one of the number one thing you can do to stay out of debt over the holidays is staying focused on the people you’re buying gifts for. You are not on that list so avoid randomly buying yourself “gifts”.

Avoid marketing tricks that make you spend more than you planned- It’s easy to go into a store to buy a loss leader, but that  $300 50” HDTV is going to need a $40 HDMI Cable – which you can elsewhere for much less, and maybe a wall mount. Shop around.   The same goes for extra chargers and phone cases, they are almost always less expensive somewhere other than the Phone Store.   Extended warranties are often a bad idea.  They sound enticing but are often difficult to use and are forgotten about.  Many credit cards offer extended warranties for free just for making the purchase on the card.

Create experiences, not expenses– Money can’t buy happiness and it can’t create a happy, memorable childhood.  Although your kid may say they just want gifts/cash, to play their games and watch TikToks or maybe the hottest toy, twenty years from now they won’t remember the gifts, anything specific about playing the game or what a Tiktok star did in their Hype House (do they even own let alone live in those houses?) but they will remember quality time doing something memorable with their parents. Spending a little on experiences can make memories.  Movie nights with an Amazon gift card to rent a movie, a box of popcorn, and some movie-style candy- and letting THEM choose the movie is something many kids love. The same for games for Family Game Night, or kitchen supplies to make a homemade Pizza Night. Even memberships to things like the zoo or a nature center can lead up to lots of fun family time.

Staying out of debt isn’t always about sticking to a budget. If you need more than you can afford or find something extra special, it’s sometimes okay to break a budget.  Just be smart about it!  Yes, you heard right, sometimes it’s ok to break your budget.  You just have to cut back in other areas.  Maybe that means you don’t go out to eat as much, cut out the Disney+ subscription, don’t go to the movies during Christmas vacation,  don’t buy Christmas outfits, or cut some other expense you normally have.   Make smart choices and cut where you can to make up for the increase in spending. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make the Holidays sparkle. With some thought, careful shopping, and paying attention to sales, you can make 2020 go out with a bang- but no debt!.