How to avoid a holiday spending hangover

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to spend less money at the holidays. It boils down to:

  • Make a budget and stick to it
    • Find a number that won’t hurt your other financial obligations, and be rigid about not overspending. Remember that spending too much here means you have less for your goals. Which is more important?
  • Shop sales
    • Black Friday online and Cyber Monday have made this very easy to do, even without all the shoving and trampling. Just remember: it isn’t a deal if you don’t need it.
  • Plan before you shop
    • This is a big one! Decide before you leave the house (or get online) what you’re going to buy, for whom. If you can’t get that specific, come up with a rough dollar amount per person/family and stick to it. Making a list throughout the year of things that person likes can make this very easy.
  • Consider buying fewer, or less expensive gifts
how to avoid a holiday spending hangover - the wiser miser

Don’t get me wrong - I think these are all good tips. I do all of these things myself.

There are a few additional pieces of advice I give to my clients, though, that I’d like to share with you as well.

First, make sure to include the cost of holiday travel, food (for special traditions, or for parties), decorations (including a holiday tree, ornaments, new lights, or that blow up santa you’ve always wanted), events your family loves, and new clothing for said events and parties. Phew! “The Holidays” category in my budget is a lot bigger than just gifts.

And perhaps the most important tip I can give you to avoid a holiday spending hangover?

Ask yourself, what do you want your holiday season to feel like? What traditions are most important to you and your family? What memories do you want to make together? Reverse engineer things from there.

What that means in practice is that you think first of what you want things to feel like in January, or even years from now. What do you want to remember about this time of year? Do you want to feel dread and stress? Of course not! We all want to think of light shows, cozy drinks by the fire, singing songs with our family while we wear matching pajamas (just me?).


If you focus first on planning your holiday season from that perspective and keep your priorities top-of-mind, every other decision will be simpler. Does this get me closer to or further from my goal? If your desire is to have a family-focused, simple holiday, do you need the latest (insert name of whatever’s popular this year, I couldn’t possibly tell you)? What you might want instead is to go to a tree lighting, sing carols together in your neighborhood while sipping mulled cider, stay up late watching Christmas movies by the light of the tree. It might be important to you to be with your extended family, so maybe travel becomes a priority. When you imagine this holiday, ask yourself where gifts even come into play. Do you need them at all? Could they look like one or two very personal and meaningful gifts?

You’re likely not the only person in your family or circle of friends seeking a little more meaning (and a little less January hangover) in your holiday season. Talk to your loved ones and you’ll probably find that they’re eager to cut the noise of gifts as well.

What do you think? Have you been able to avoid a holiday spending hangover and have some tips? Leave them in the comments!

 

P.S. This is a great time of year to make a plan for next year’s holidays, too! Putting that into your budget now makes things a lot less painful than remembering in October.