Entering the holiday season with a mountain of debt is a terrible experience. It’s made even worse with the added weight of an abysmal debt-to-equity ratio.
For parents, the weight of responsibility to provide for your children is multiplied during the holidays — one of the few times other than birthdays when the kids expect to receive gifts.
For children, the excitement of past holidays and the expectations of opening presents on Christmas day can create a crushing experience if they feel disappointment. So, what does this mean for parents?
Are you expected to get deeper in debt just to avoid disappointing the children?
Should you buy just a few good gifts or many small gifts?
Is there a way to satisfy your kids’ expectations and avoid more debt?
Believe it or not, there are many ways to avoid getting deeper into debt during the holidays and it all begins with expectations.
The Root of the Holiday Debt Problem
Is it wrong to spend money during the holidays?
No, it isn’t.
But it can do damage in the future if you aren’t careful with how you spend. That’s why you need to cultivate a habit of smart gift giving. Smart gift giving is different from normal gift giving, because you focus on needs over wants and completely cut out holiday overspending habits.
To begin your path to smart gift giving, you’ll need to identify your overspending habits. There are two culprits when it comes to holiday overspending: avarice and love.
Parents/family either love their children so much that they hate to see them disappointed on Christmas — resulting in overspending on Christmas gifts — or they’re so preoccupied with “having nice things” that they willingly fall deeper into debt.
Debt and gift-giving have gone hand-in-hand for far too long — it’s time to break up these two highly unlikely lovers and forge healthier holiday spending habits.
Check out these great ways to avoid going deeper in debt during the holidays.
The Gift of Giving
Yes, it’s cliche. But constant repetition hasn’t made this any less true — giving will always trump getting. And luckily for all of us, giving doesn’t necessarily mean paying.
There are important, fundamental financial lessons to be learned and developed through giving:
- A focus on needs over wants
- The true meaning of value
- How material things and money affect wellbeing
Through giving, you can actually learn how to save money when buying things for yourself.
Think about it.
If you approach every purchase with a budget in mind, a healthy perception of value, and a focus on your needs, your purchases will become smarter, saving you money in the long run.
Learning to give smart gifts can actually teach you to save money.
Most gift giving involves spending. But you can also give time, knowledge, experience, and care. For example, if you know how to play the piano, you can offer to hold free lessons for the kids in your neighborhood. This is both a gift of time and knowledge.
Whichever type of giving you decide to adopt this Christmas, you’ll likely need to be more outgoing and social than you were before. Opportunities for giving don’t just show up on your doorstep — you have to learn about other people to identify what they need.
I had a friend growing up who celebrated Christmas, but not like the rest of us. He didn’t wake up on Christmas to a mountain of presents under a tree. He wasn’t ever home during the holidays.
Every Christmas, my friend’s family would do charity work in neighboring towns and sometimes different countries. He made new friends and lasting memories of helping those much less fortunate than himself.
Though an expensive excursion may be out of the question for parents struggling with finances, the idea is the same and it doesn’t have to cost money.
Here are some great ways to give without spending too much money (or none at all):
- Host a dessert swap with neighbors
- Grow and give away fruits and vegetables
- Get a charity-focused credit card
- 12 days of Christmas; acts of kindness
- Employer gift matching
- Fundraising for local charities
- Organize a neighborhood food or gift drive
- Donate your old clothes, toys, and goods
- Donate blood
- Host a cooking day with your friends; make dinner for random families
More than getting gifts, your kids deserve the valuable lessons that come from giving. Yes, random acts of kindness can make a big difference for those on the receiving end. But just imagine the nurturing effect giving will have on your kids.
In time, your children will become givers instead of receivers. You will spend less money on Christmas gifts and more time on learning the meaning of Christmas.
The Gift of a Brighter Financial Future
Sometimes, gift giving is made even more difficult when choosing a gift for those suffering from financial troubles. After all, would you buy an Apple watch for someone who struggles to pay their bills?
There are some great ways to actually improves the lives of those you are giving to, without removing the spirit and festivity of the holidays.
Parents can educate their kids to live or at least desire to live a financially savvy life. Though financial wellness gifts may not make much immediate difference, they will relieve the stress of future holiday debt.
Use the best budgeting apps to manage your expenses during the busy spending season. An good budgeting app can save you some valuable dollars here and there that will make a difference in the end.
By Christmastime, you should at least have a bit of your tax refund set aside for smart gift-giving. When it comes to teaching your kids about taxes, it’s important to lead by example. Plan a family tax prep night, to teach your growing kids about the importance of keeping receipts and records of transactions.
Professional Preparation for the Holidays
In the months leading up to the holidays, offer to work extra hours to impress your superiors. Your hard work leading up to the holidays could lead to a bonus or a promotion.
You can even express your desire to your superiors to earn some extra money to save up for the holidays. You may qualify for a pay increase if you accept extra responsibilities at work.
Besides working extra hard in your chosen career path, you also have the option to make money on the side to save up for the holidays.
Spending the next month as an Uber or Lyft driver will put some extra cash in your pocket for those added holiday expenses.
The Motley Fool reveals that you can make between $371 and $1,853 per month by driving for Uber. Of course, it completely depends on the time you put into it, but you can actually make enough money to pay for Christmas.
Other possible side gigs include:
- Freelance writing
- Dog walking
- Social media manager
- Garage sales
- Donate plasma
- Party planning
- Research study participant
- Become a tutor
No matter how much money you have or how much debt you’ve accumulated over the years, there is always a way back. Yes, the holidays are a time of giving, but they don’t have to be a time of going into debt.
Practice smart gift giving by focusing on needs over wants, saving up money beforehand, making extra efforts at work, sharing good financial practices with your kids, and by focusing on the real reason for the holidays: family.
For more information, talk with one of our debt specialists today.
Disclaimer: We are not attorneys or accountants and can not give you legal advice. If you have legal or tax questions, you should contact the appropriate expert.