We all know that holiday spending can easily get out of hand. A gift here, a dinner there and suddenly you’re looking at a credit card bill hangover in January. According to a 2017 survey from MagnifyMoney, 44 percent of customers racked up over $1,000 in credit card debt during the holidays, and 5 percent accumulated more than $5,000. This level of holiday spending can take months to pay off, with hundreds of dollars in interest incurred over that time.
My extended family has always been big on the holidays. We travel from our various homes across the country to spend time together, give each other gifts and eat plenty of food in celebration. This year is a little different for me because I have less money than usual. This year my husband is attending school, which means we are living on one income. Money is tight, so we’ve had to limit extra spending, especially during the holidays.
My strict budget means that I needed to cut down my Christmas spending. I somehow needed to bring up the idea of scaling back Christmas with my family — without ruffling any feathers. Here’s how I did it.
Lay the Groundwork Early
I didn’t spring the idea of scaling back holiday spending on my family without notice. Instead, I worked it into my conversations with friends and family over several months. By introducing the topic slowly, it didn’t seem out of the blue when I finally sat down to have “the talk.”
Make Your Pitch
When it was time to have the talk, I didn’t just have one conversation — I had several with different family members around the country. During these conversations, I very clearly defined my pitch: that in the name of frugality, I’d like to eliminate X and Y Christmas activities. Instead of just vaguely saying we need to scale back Christmas, I clearly defined what I’d like to scale back.
Your holiday scale-back could take many forms. It could be something as simple as going from buying gifts for each family member to doing a gift exchange, or maybe even forgoing gifts for adults altogether and only doing gifts for the children in the family.
Whatever your pitch, make sure it is clear and concise, with as little room for family members to think you’re a Grinch as possible.
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Make it Temporary
Your proposal to scale back the holidays might encounter some resistance from family members — and that is normal. A great way to mitigate any backlash is to propose the scale-back as a temporary measure. If your scale-back is a temporary experiment, the commitment level is very low. When you talk to your family about limiting Christmas spending, let them know that if they try it and want to go back to spending more, that’s fine.
Take Full Responsibility
This might be the hardest part, but being honest about why you want to scale back holiday spending will be your best selling point. For me, I had to be open and transparent about the fact that my husband and I are on a tight budget and that we don’t have as much extra cash for extracurricular spending. It can be difficult to be this brutally honest with your family members, but it’s worth it.
Don’t Just Cut, Add
Cutting out Christmas traditions and spending is good for your bottom line, but don’t stop there. To avoid seeming too much like a Grinch, it’s a good idea to replace your expensive traditions with cost-effective alternatives. There are plenty of free ways to celebrate Christmas. In my case, I advocated for reducing our spending on gifts but also for allocating some of that money toward extra food during the festivities. This strategy has two benefits: spending less on presents and spending more quality time with family, which is the whole point of Christmas after all.
Whether you spend $500 or $1,000 during the holidays, spending less is probably a good idea. This year I’ve allocated just $622 toward Christmas. Thanks to some careful budgeting and “the talk,” that’s going to be enough.
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