Have the last three holiday seasons felt more like the Nightmare Before Christmas than ‘Twas the Night before Christmas?
Does the thought of celebrating the holidays without family and friends cast a shadow over what is supposed to be the "hap-happiest time of the year?"
For many people, the holiday season is a mad rush of spending too much time, too much energy, and too much money.
This year's uncertainty has only added to the pressure we feel.
In this blog post, you'll learn how to examine your feelings and beliefs about the season and the impact they have on your behavior. By the end, you’ll have the tools to build the holiday of your dreams while remaining debt-free, so that you can welcome the new year in financial peace.
I recommend taking some time to fill out the questions below. It's not easy work, but it just may be the best gift you can give yourself this holiday season.
#1. Take Stock of How Holiday Spending Makes You Feel
The holidays are a time filled with so much expectation, and spending on gifts is one of the most-stress inducing obligations we put on ourselves and others.
By taking stock of how spending actually makes you feel, you may find that spending less on an equally meaningful gift brings you just as much joy as splashing out and going over budget.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when thinking of your gift list this year:
Your answers to these questions may impact your approach to gift-giving this holiday season, and that’s okay. The key is to prioritize what feels good to you about the holidays and to spend your time and energy on those areas.
#2. Examine Your Positive Beliefs About the Holiday Season
The next step in designing the holiday of your dreams is to focus on what brings you genuine happiness. It could be specific songs or foods that bring back beautiful memories. It’s important to examine your positive beliefs and do more of the things that fill your life with positivity instead of reverting to practices that may be expected or baked into the mold.
Similarly, many people have negative feelings about the holidays because it is a complicated time with demands on our time, energy, emotions and money. By examining our feelings, we can aim to avoid the behavior and habits that lead to negative experiences.
#3. Examine Your Negative Memories About the Holiday Season
Filling out this section can be unpleasant, but it is critical to understanding how our memories, good and bad, shape our behavior.
Now that you’ve thought about steps one through three, it’s time to connect the dots between how your past experiences and behavior influence your feelings. This next step is your chance to empower yourself to make a change.
#4. Connect the Dots
In this step, you’ll examine how your holiday memories have contributed to your recent holiday behaviors and feelings. There is almost always a direct connection between the two.
Once you are aware of it, it will be far easier to make positive changes.
"It's (not always) a good thing" - Karen McCall
At this point, you may be thinking: Karen, this is no fun!
I understand, but by getting clear and connected to how your experiences and emotions connect to your money behaviors, you are giving yourself the gift of clarity.
Plus, this is where the fun begins. In the next step, you’ll create your holiday vision!
#5. Create your Holiday Vision
In this step, you'll have the opportunity to envision the holidays precisely the way you'd like them to be! It's an essential step because you're far more likely to achieve it if you can picture success.
Be aware that the "perfect" holiday this year may not look anything like the holidays you've had in the past. This year, more than any other, is the year to let go of "that's the way we've always done it" thinking.
"I believe... I believe... It's silly, but I believe." - Susan Walker (Natalie Wood), Miracle on 34th Street
In the next step, you’ll create possibilities around your vision with a spending plan that works.
#6. Create Your Holiday Spending Plan
Now that you've envisioned a pleasant, new holiday, it's time to make a spending plan that will help you meet your goal. It's not a budget. It's a vision-based plan based on what you want and what you need this year.
Follow these steps:
Challenge: try to figure out a way to pay for everything without using a credit card. If you must pay by credit, carefully monitor the charges so that you don't end up with a holiday credit hangover!
#7. Balance The Books
The goal for a solid spending plan is to ensure that the funds you have designated for holiday spending will cover the expenses you've planned.
If the numbers don't balance out, you can adjust! The key is to be creative and stick to your heartfelt vision.
Check in with your plan by asking the following questions:
While conscious spending is a critical component of having a stress-free, and debt-free holiday season, it is not the be-all and end-all. Your time and energy are valuable assets that you have to assign consideration and value to.
Next up, planning to spend your time and energy so you can enjoy the holiday season.
#8. Plan How to Spend Your Time and Energy
Minding your money doesn't begin and end with finances. How you spend your time and energy is part of the whole equation. In fact, it's what we call the TEM equation at the Financial Recovery ™ Institute – time, energy, money.
The goal is to plan things out so that you're not depleting yourself and you don't spend more than you have. In other words, you're taking care of yourself first.
Here’s your plan of action:
If you follow my approach to money management, you know that tracking brings me joy. I get joy out of having total control over my finances and directing where my hard-earned money goes. The holidays are no different.
So, in the next step, you’ll learn how to track your money so you have no surprises or hefty credit card bills.
#9. Checking It Twice … heck, just keep track!
Now that you've created a balanced plan, it's time to put it to work!
Here’s how you do it:
And finally, in step 10 you enjoy the holiday you’ve envisioned and created.
#10. Enjoy the Holidays!
As the holidays draw near, many people panic that they haven't done or bought enough.
Here are a few things to remind yourself that will help you stay in balance:
It's not the gifts we get or give we remember; it's the experiences we create for ourselves and our loved ones.
Now all that's left to do is get a good night's sleep and enjoy the holiday magic and joy.
You deserve it!