Navigating the Financial Traps of The Holidays

As we enter the Holiday Season, we are greeted with the season’s excitement, joy, and love, along with…all the stress, exhaustion, and very high Pinterest standards.  Yes, I said it, and I know in some part of you, you know it too.  Maybe that is why we start seeing Christmas decorations before Halloween, so we can get a jumpstart on the preparations.  I don’t know about you, but that only adds to my stress level.  I start thinking everyone else must be halfway done with their shopping while I haven’t even compiled my list, and definitely not checked it twice.  So go ahead, and vent it out, scream out loud: “I am not prepared, I am not a perfect housewife who got it all done without sweating a drop!”  Didn’t that feel good? 

This Holiday season, I want to enjoy every bit of it and not get bogged down from all the stress.  I’d rather not scream at the mall traffic.  And if you'd like to join me so we can both have a wonderful season and celebrate versus the alternative: curse and scream.  One of the big stresses of the season is money and how do we fit all the gifts, decorations, baked goods, meals, and traditions into our budgets?  It’s too late to start saving, so instead of suggesting a savings plan, how about a checklist of the Holiday Financial Traps and how to avoid them?

  1. The number one trap is…gifts for EVERYONE.  It gets a little ridiculous getting gifts for everyone and it can really add up.  Here are some ideas of avoiding presents for all.
    1. Go out to dinner or drinks with friends instead of exchanging gifts.  Try a cookie or martini exchange at someone’s house.  Trust me, you will have more fun celebrating together!
    2. Instead of presents for children try: baking them cookies and candies, take them to see Santa, take them ice skating, or decorate a gingerbread house with them.
    3. Presents for extended family can get expensive, so try: a Secret Santa exchange, a wine only exchange, or have a big dinner together to celebrate!
    4. If you still need to get gifts for everyone, set a price limit.  There is a great app called Christmas Gift List that will track your spending and your list.  Another option is using an envelope with cash to make sure you don’t go over budget.
  2. New decorations can be very tempting, and it is probable my biggest problem!  Hello my name is Jessica and I have a decorating addiction.  My husband and I host Christmas day, and I go a little overboard and try to decorate everything a little different each year.  My top idea for this year is buying a third tree just for all my Dotson ornaments.  But instead of buying all new try some of these:
    1. Exchange decorations with a friend or family member.
    2. Invite a friend or a few over to have a decorating party, they will have some different ideas to try!
    3. Pinterest, Pinterest, and Pinterest.  Look up budget friendly ideas.
  3. Expensive Traditions $$$$.  I know traditions are hard to break, but sometimes you need to reinvent an old tradition to make it fit better into your wallet.  It can be a great time to do new rituals to carry on throughout the season.
    1. If you are recently divorced, you may have no choice but to create new traditions.  Remember the most important thing for your children is to be with you during the season.  Find ways to be together whether it is to bake cookies, find a Christmas tree, pick out a new ornament each year, or volunteer together.  Find an activity that brings the real reason for the season back, and BONUS one that doesn’t cost your entire work bonus.
    2. The best gift you can give our children is an investment into your relationship.  Play hooky from work if your children have the day off to go sledding, drink hot chocolate, or lay around in your PJs. 
    3. If you host a party or a holiday meal, ask people to pitch in with side dishes, appetizers, drinks, or dessert.  It will save you a ton of...money, time, stress, and energy!
  4. Material gifts versus Experiences.  You might have noticed a theme with my suggestions, think experience over material objects.  It is more fun to enjoy a memory together than the fleeting emotion of receiving a gift. 
    1. I’ve already suggested a few ideas but here are some more:
      • Travel into the city or a festive town for the day,
      • Have a hot chocolate or decorating party,
      • Go onto Groupon to find a new restaurant or fun place to check out,
      • Put together an advent calendar filled with an activity for each day,
      • Bake cookies for your neighbors and drop them off with your children or Dotson in my case, and
      • Read a Holiday book each night leading up to the big day!
  5. If you are recently separated or divorced, the gift giving competition usually heightens during the stressful holidays.  Just be aware if your ex does this and avoid it at all costs!  The best gift you can give your children is a good relationship with you. 


I hope these tips help keep the holiday stresses to a new low and enables you to be fully present during these joyous times.  Don’t feel the need to use your entire bonus for the holidays because you shouldn’t have to go paycheck to paycheck to have a wonderful holiday. We tend to get all carried away with the presents, decorations, food, and drinks, that we get so worked up and need a vacation after our holiday break.  Wouldn’t it feel great to use this time to reconnect with family and friends instead of stressing all December long?  My recommendation is to turn off your social media accounts for a few weeks, and try to reflect a little on what we have compared to what we don’t have.  Please share one thing you are grateful for on my Facebook page Jessica Weaver, Wealth Advisor.

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essica Weaver, CFP®, CDFA™, CFS®
Wealth Advisor


Opinions expressed are those of Jessica Weaver and not necessarily those of Raymond James.  Raymond James is not affiliated with Pinterest or Groupon.