It’s the ho-ho-holidays! You know, the most wonderful time of the year…fingers crossed! There can be a lot to adjust to in the first year of marriage, but one topic that always seems to tangle newlyweds’ tinsel is the holidays. Suddenly, you’ve got two families to shop for, two sets of traditions to navigate, and two or more homes to visit. You may be feeling overwhelmed, but your first Noel doesn’t have to be stressful—at least not financially. To keep the “season of giving” from turning into the “season of debt,” check out these tips for navigating holiday spending as newlyweds.
They say communication is key. So, before the holiday madness is in full swing, you might consider sitting down with your spouse to discuss expectations. Just as you talked through your personal opinions on having children and where you would live after the wedding, determining individual holiday priorities is best addressed before families are awaiting RSVPs.
General relationship maintenance is easy to overlook when you’re busy checking things off your Christmas list. Have an honest conversation about holiday preparations and decisions, including your shared financial situation. Believe it or not, overspending isn’t the reason for the season. But it happens a lot during the holidays, and money is often the source of a lot of marital stress and conflict. So, it’s best to know what your finances are looking like before you start buying.
The holiday season only lasts a few weeks. It can be a fun few weeks, but it isn’t worth risking the long-term health of your relationship. Holiday planning may not be as exciting as decorating, opening gifts, or roasting chestnuts on an open fire, but having a solid, sustainable holiday spending plan is a proactive way to reduce future stress, frustration, and feuds.
Create a Holiday Budget
Who doesn’t want to embrace their inner “Clark Griswold” during the holiday season? Between all the Christmas decorations and repeat plays of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” it’s hard not to feel merry and want to deck the halls with presents. While the desire is certainly understandable, it often isn’t financially manageable.
To decide what you can realistically spend on the holidays, focus on key areas of your financial situation, including your combined monthly incomes and expenses. Consider paying down any existing debt that may cause stress on your finances in the new year, and do your best to rein in excess spending. Not to be the grinch who stole Christmas, but those expensive coffees and fancy toasts add up!
Manage your finances by creating a budgeting strategy. Make a list of all your anticipated holiday expenses — wrapping paper, decorations, and the cost of travel — and then make a list of hidden holiday costs. It can be easy to overlook smaller or infrequent expenses, such as shipping charges, grocery runs, or even the bigger electricity bill from your Christmas lights. Due to this, the best way to truly shock-proof your bank account for the holidays is to create a budget and add interest. You can’t budget for everything, and you’ll be grateful for the extra wiggle room later. Any leftover cash at the end of the season can always be put toward next year’s holiday fund.
It’s never too early to start planning and saving! Your list of anticipated expenses can help shape your savings plan. Consider starting your holiday fund in the summer — or even earlier. If you start putting aside money each month at the beginning of the year, you’ll be less stressed about holiday spending when Christmas comes to town.
Holiday shopping can become an all-consuming activity. It’s easy to start loading up on gifts for every family member and friend you can think of. Consider making a list of people to shop for. This helpful trick will wrangle in overspending, which will be especially important now that you have two families to think of.
Holiday hangovers typically come from not planning — and last-minute planning isn’t planning at all. To stay within your budget, make your lists (check them twice) and stick to your decisions ahead of time rather than when your shopping cart is full.
Look for Deals
The holiday sales season typically starts in November, building up to the two biggest shopping days of the year — Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To get the best deals, start tracking these sales early and do some comparison shopping. Large retailers often begin advertising their Black Friday sales several weeks ahead of the big day. By starting your holiday shopping now, you can spread your costs over a longer period, putting less stress on your budget and helping to avoid any last-minute shopping frenzies.
Though Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are over for this year, you can always plan ahead for next year! And once the holiday season is over, the essentials go on sale. In fact, the day after Christmas is one of the best days of the year to score deep discounts on items like lights, wrapping paper, and holiday-themed table settings. There’s no harm in spending ahead and stocking up for next year now. You may thank yourself for the savings next December.
Holiday shopping will probably look different this year. From supply chain issues to labor shortages, there’s a laundry list of problems plaguing the retail industry. This will probably make your shopping season more mad dash than merry. To avoid rushed decisions, unbudgeted purchases, or other temptations, experts recommend shopping online extra early. Retailers often offer additional discounts for online purchases, scoring you a better deal from home than if you paid a visit to a brick-and-mortar store. To help avoid shipping delays, consider buying online for in-store or curbside pickup. But, you’ll have to be quick! Shopping early can help keep supply chain issues and delays at bay.
If you do decide to brave the Black Friday crowds, take your lists and your game plan with you. Remember, you’re trying to stay within your budget. If you’re thinking of putting gifts on a credit card and paying them off later: don’t, don’t, don’t. Freely using a credit card could have you paying off Christmas well into the new year.
Avoid Holiday Pitfalls
So, you and your partner sat down, calculated out your holiday budget, and created gift lists — great! Unfortunately, these tactics aren’t full-proof. For lots of us, the holiday budget goes right out the window as soon as we step into a store or start shopping online.
To help keep you from spending like there’s no January, here are three additional holiday financial pitfalls:
Not planning ahead for big sales can be detrimental to your holiday budget, but do you know what else can hurt your holiday budget? Overdoing it. Everyone loves a good bargain, but feeling like you just can’t pass up a deal can burn a big hole into your wallet.
To avoid temptation, ask yourself if you’d still want the item if it weren’t on sale. Does it fit into your budget? Is there a better use for the money you’re about to spend? Was it on your list to begin with? Is it a splurge item?
Budgets and diets have one thing in common: We tend to give up on both during the holidays. As the season progresses, you may feel pressured to give gifts to people in your life beyond the folks on your list: co-workers who left plates of cookies on your desk, the neighbor, or even that really nice mailman.
No matter how small they may seem at the time, last-minute gifts can add up quickly! If you discover that you accidentally left someone off your list, feel free to add them! That’s what the wiggle room in your budget is for.
Store Credit Cards
It can be tempting to open a store credit card and snag that additional discount, especially during the holiday shopping season. But this can be a costly mistake. While retail credit cards are convenient, they typically charge higher interest rates than normal credit cards, as well as eye-popping late fees for missed payments. It’s best to sidestep this holiday pitfall.
If you are a loyal shopper at a particular store, applying for a store credit card can be a great way to earn rewards and other cardholder benefits — just don’t forget to pay off your balance on time!
Does more money equal more holiday joy? No, it’s not true! Less can be more. To save a little cash on gifting, consider personalizing your presents. You can bake someone a tin of their favorite cookies or hand paint a Christmas ornament. Experiential gifting is also a great way to thoughtfully and personally gift without busting your budget. You could plan a short vacation or pay for a nice dinner. You don’t have to buy big-ticket items to have a holly, jolly Christmas with the ones you love.
Your first holiday as a couple doesn’t have to be financially stressful. This time of the year is about family and cherishing one another, not about how much you spend. Follow these tips to help survive the season and head into the new year with both your finances and your new marriage intact.
Taylor & Megan Kovar
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