How To Live Your #bestlife This Holiday Season (While Also Sticking To Your Budget)

I pride myself on being an excellent gift giver, so the holidays are really my time to shine. Maybe my Leo sun is the reason I love finding the right gifts for my friends and family members, but there’s nothing better than hearing, “Wait, this is perfect! How did you think of this?!”

Budgets and high prices rarely stand in my way when I find the one thing that’s just so them (or when that “one thing” is actually two or three things). Unfortunately, that means I tend to overextend myself — financially and emotionally — on my quest to find the ideal present for everyone.

But I’m not the only one who spends a lot toward the end of the year. A recent survey on holiday spending found that in 2018, the average consumer planned to spend nearly $650 on gifts for friends, family, and coworkers for the holidays. No matter if that number feels comfortable or overwhelming for your budget, it’s worth following a few small-but-mighty ways to make sure you’re maintaining your financial health throughout the holiday season.

First Things First: Figure Out Why You’re Spending The Way You Are

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Spending habits can be hard to change. If you’ve always bought a gift for a friend in the past, it’s easy to get caught in a pattern of buying something for them every year, but experts suggest it may be helpful to take a step back and figure out why you’re compelled to buy them anything at all.

“Many of us don’t see our family and friends as often as we’d like (hello, life) and to make up for lost time, we give with tangible things like gifts,” says Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a licensed master social worker and a financial therapist who helps people understand the psychology behind spending.

So when you’re planning holiday gifts, take time to evaluate who you’re buying for and why they’re on your list. Is it, as Bryan-Podvin suggests, about how you feel giving them a gift? (Um, guilty.) Or is it out of a sense of obligation?

As certified financial planner Liz Frazier says, “You are not Santa. Buy for the people you want to buy for, not because you feel obligated.”

Make Your Budget Your Best Friend

Building a budget can be fairly simple, but you have to be realistic about it — which means setting aside some time to plan it out earlier than December 1. Luckily, having that plan in place could help you avoid some common money mistakes.

According to money coach Emma Leigh Geiser, most money issues can be simplified into two main categories: underestimating and overspending. Many people try to set a budget using “mental math,” says Geiser, but they tend to underestimate how much things will actually add up. Then reality kicks in and they’re hit with sticker shock, and that’s when overspending happens.

To keep your money in a good place, set up your holiday spending plan before you start shopping. Between purchases, you can check in with your budget to make sure you’re staying on a productive track.

Think Outside The Gift-Giving Box

Personally, I make it a point to donate a portion of my holiday spending budget to a local organization that ensures children in their care network have gifts to open on Christmas morning. It’s an important line item in my budget, and I encourage everyone to do something similar around the holidays if you can.

But, as Bryan-Podvin points out, “Nonprofits need funding year-round, not just during the holiday rush.” Consider spacing your contributions out throughout the other 11 months of the year to make budgeting easier.

Plan Your Holiday Travel Sooner Than Later

Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock

For those of us who live far from family, going home for the holidays is often a lot more involved than simply dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh — and it’s usually more costly.

Luckily, there are plenty of tools that can help you find a solid deal on flights, like apps that show you if the most affordable time to book your trip is today, or maybe a couple of weeks from now. You can easily filter by number of stops, airline, and time of day to make sure you’re finding an option that suits your budget and your schedule.

That in mind, sometimes holiday deals book up too quickly for you to actually take advantage of them. If that’s the case, fear not! There are other budget-friendly ways to cash in on some quality time with your loved ones. “See if there is an off-season time you can visit, say for a relative’s big birthday or anniversary,” Bryan-Podvin suggests. “It allows you quality time with less competing demands and often results in cheaper travel. To double-up on this idea, send a holiday card with your tentative travel dates or flight receipt to the person you’ll be visiting. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!”

Try This Tip For Navigating Post-Holiday Sales

Who doesn’t love a sale? Sales are great — if you actually need whatever you’re buying. “Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it,” Frazier says. After all, buying something (even if it’s on sale) is still spending money.

When it comes to spending any money you received over the holidays, Frazier suggests writing down a list of the things you want and need, then shopping the sales with a keen eye on those items only — a strategy that can help you overcome a common pitfall of impulse shopping.

 

 

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Woman Slams Surprisingly ‘Tiny’ & ‘Insulting’ Engagement Ring After 8 Years With Partner

I’m not the first person to say weddings have gotten out of control in America, but man does it bear repeating. The over-the-top engagement and bachelorette parties, the mile-long registries packed with pricey items you just know the couple will never use, and the wedding receptions themselves, which can cost upward of $50K … It’s MADNESS! Plus, before the wedding festivities even begin, the groom has to fork over some major bucks on the engagement ring — which he will definitely be silently judged for if it’s tiny. Such is the predicament one poor soul is in, after he got hardcore ring-shamed on Reddit this week.

The Reddit post, which was shared on Monday, has elicited a LOT of opinions so far from people who could hardly believe their eyes.

In it, the poster shares an image supposedly from a woman who recently became engaged after eight years with her partner. On her hand sits a diamond engagement ring, accompanied by a simple gold band.

Sounds pretty standard, right?

But you see, here’s the thing: The ring on her finger looks like less like a rock and more like … well, a pebble. Or glitter. Or, honestly, anything other than a diamond engagement ring. Because even to the untrained eye — and the least materialistic person out there — it’s pretty clear: The ring is small. And that’s precisely why the bride-to-be took to social media in the first place.

“This is the ring he said he saved up to buy me,” the woman wrote. “Am I being shady or materialistic if I tell this mf ion want this little a– ring?”

Reddit was pretty much unanimous: The ring is bad. Like, REAL bad. And mostly because of what they think it says about her fiance’s judgment.

“I’m not materialistic when it comes to things like this but if my man proposed with THAT I would be full on insulted,” wrote one woman. “There are nicer, more substantial rings than that for $200. He went out of his way to find the cheapest possible option; which to me says that he’s probably like that in every aspect of the relationship and will probably be like that in every aspect of their marriage. You can count on it.”

Yikes.

Plenty of others took turns guessing just how inexpensive the ring was, too, and many believe it to be no more than $200 to $300.

To be fair, $200 to $300 isn’t a drop in the bucket. But for an engagement ring? One you’ve been presumably saving up for for years?

To many, it says something about his saving skills …

“Not gonna lie,” wrote one person. “I’d be more concerned about his ‘saving up’ to buy something that little. Simply because it shows that a wedding is probably not in the budget.”

“I agree,” another person chimed in. “While I have no idea what this costs, it doesn’t look like a ring one would need to save up for. They have been talking about marriage for three years, but have they gone window shopping for engagement rings? Have they discussed style, size, and budget for the ring as well as a wedding?”

Plenty of Redditors said the woman should “gently” let her fiance know this isn’t her style, and ask to return to the jeweler to choose one she likes.

“This will hopefully lead to a budget discussion and set priorities,” one person explained.

“Exactly,” added another. “My husband has bought some jewelry for me that wasn’t my taste. I wanted to have an engagement ring I absolutely loved, so we picked it out together. We got engaged almost three years ago and I still stare at my ring every day because I absolutely adore it.”

“I used to think this was unromantic af, and then my then-bf made me do it and LET ME TELL YOU it’s amazing,” another woman said.

In fact, a lot of women chimed in about their involvement during the ring-shopping process, claiming that picking it out themselves — or at least steering their boyfriends in the right direction — wound up being for the best.

Even a few dudes commented that they were grateful for the help.

“I went so far as to make my then-gf pick out an engagement ring,” one man commented, “because I knew I wouldn’t get the one she wanted and I knew she’d be the one wearing it forever.”

Still, many warned that this might be a sign of things to come …

“Regardless of whether she likes the ring, if they’ve been talking about marriage for 3 years and this is what he was able to save for (possibly over the course of 3 years), unless her fiancé is living in poverty, it seems like this is a red flag regarding his ability to manage finances and save money, which is a major concern if you’re going to spend a lifetime with someone,” wrote one person.

At least a few people came to the guy’s defense, though. Well, sorta.

“I kinda like her ring,” wrote one person. “It’s very modern and sleek looking. I’d wear that in a heartbeat.”

“It’s totally the kind of ring that I’d wear,” added another.

But perhaps one person said it best when they dropped this little truth bomb: “When the ring is the issue, the ring is not the issue.”

Hmmm … FAIR. Very fair.

The thing is, the ring IS small. But is that really a reason to shame the person you supposedly love on the internet? Here’s hoping the woman works up the nerve to tell her fiance what she really wants in an engagement ring — and it leads to a bit more communication in the future.