If you are like many Americans you might be picking up those final gifts for friends, family, and/or acquaintances. For many of us we don’t even want to look at our credit card bills after the holidays because of the amount of money spent on gifts, travel, going out to eat, etc.
I know I feel it too. I live over 1400 miles from my family. I only get to see them maybe once or twice per year, plus most of my good friends are still back in my home state and I want to see them as well.
Luckily Mrs. ROB and me have our parents within close proximity with each other, but that doesn’t mean my mind doesn’t start whirling when it comes to those finances. Here are the biggest pressures I see at the holidays:
- Gifts. As I get older I realize I don’t need as much. In fact, a lot of the clothes that I wear or are bought for me come at Christmas time. So that is a welcome gift. However, I feel the need to reciprocate and go further than that. Plus, as I get older I have more nieces and nephews and in-laws and the extent of the presents and price tags can be expensive.
- Travel. Our travel isn’t that bad. Mrs. ROB and me will drive the 1400 miles to see our family, but it is cheaper than flying. One of the reasons we drive is because we want to bring our dog Spooner. I mean we can’t leave the fur kid at home on Christmas. It just wouldn’t be right. However, I am one of those people who will drive straight through. We will stop for food, bathroom breaks, and the like. But unless our car breaks down (like it did last year) we drive straight on through. We still will spend a few hundred dollars on gas and food going home, plus wear and tear on our car.
- Going out. When we are home Mrs. ROB and me like to see our friends. So there are all kinds of things that we can do. Mrs. ROB and her best friends will have a day where they will do a little shopping. We will also see Mrs. ROB’s friends quite a bit and I truly enjoy hanging out with them. Also, we will go visit my family, my sister and her family, which can also get to be a little spendy. On the bright side I get to catch up on my movie watching over our break and there is a great cheap theater in the area that we love.
- Eating out. This is probably the biggest thing we spend our money on. Not only food, but drinks with friends. I won’t doubt that we probably go out at least half of the time we are there. And that is because we are out with friends or our family and the like. Our parents, for whatever reason, still insist on paying for us when we go out to eat, which always makes me feel a little awkward.
All of these items can cause financial pressure. You almost feel compelled to participate. Here are some of my strategies this Christmas season to reduce the cost.
- We aren’t staying as long as in the past. This really isn’t a strategy but more of a unique circumstance this year. In reality I would like to stay longer to visit my family, but between our jobs we will need to cut short our time at home this year. In fact, Mrs. ROB and me will be working over break (Mrs. ROB especially because she is teaching a new class). Less time there means less money. On this one, however, I would rather stay a bit longer.
- Trying to suggest we stay in, play games or something of that nature. Don’t get me wrong I like going out to eat, but I would much rather stay in, play games, and hang out. Maybe I am old, but doing the bar scene just doesn’t suit me as much. If we do go out I prefer a good pub than a fancy restaurant.
- Buy experiences, not stuff. I am not doing this as much this year as in the past. However, when I am trying to shop for my sister or brother or in-laws I have found that is more financially viable and I think even better to buy experiences rather than stuff. That experience is sometimes a wine/chocolate basket that has a variety of goodies in it. My favorite thing to do is to buy tickets whether that be a sporting event, comedy show, concert, etc for my family. I kill two birds with one stone by buying for a couple and they get to go have a nice night out on us. The older I get the more I realize that experiences are a lot better than stuff. In fact, I would rather people just give me the cash instead of buying stuff for me. Give me an experience is a lot more fun.
These strategies will only mitigate the cost of the holidays a bit. I am not complaining mind you. I don’t mind spending some money for the holidays. However, I am thinking about the future of some expenses coming up and because of that it always puts a bit of a pressure to stay within a certain limit.
The bottom line: The holidays are meant to be spent with family and loved ones. Stuff isn’t important. Experiences are. I love to go home to see my family because they generally make me happy. How do you handle the financial pressures of the holidays?