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‘Tis the season…for budgeting. Part two.December 6, 2016 Family, Life Events, Lifestyle, Living Well, Planning Well
Preparing for the holiday season often means stressing over budgets while still trying to find the perfect gifts for friends and family. Our advisors reflect on non-traditional gifts and how to give without going over budget in part two of our tips and tricks on how to avoid holiday stress, here are their thoughts:
Our family gift exchange
If there’s one truism about the Christmas holidays it is that it is often upon us before we even smell the wood smoke in the air or feel the frosty wind turning our cheeks into sugar plums. We’re hardly halfway through eating our children’s Halloween candy, and the local malls have already decked their halls with Christmas flare beckoning consumers on to the very next round of spending. Although it may sound cliché, some of the best gifts that I’ve ever given and received have not been things that are bought in a store.
I come from a family of six (two parents, two sisters, a brother, and yours truly), which in recent years has ballooned to become a family of eighteen through both marriages and pregnancies. About five years ago we collectively came to the realization that gifts between my parents, siblings, and in-laws had devolved into a thoughtless rotation of gift certificates, which made the “season of giving” seem like more of a formality than I ever imagined it could be when I was a kid. The magic was lost.
We have since improved our gift exchange by placing a formal maximum budget of $20.00 on the gifts that we give, and we now emphasize that gifts are to be “made” and not purchased outright (i.e. you may purchase the components for under $20.00, but you’re still expected to put something together). We do this in conjunction with a charitable donation to a charity of choice. The gifts themselves have ranged from homemade food (pies, cinnamon buns, cookies, etc.), to functional gifts such as tied flies for fishing, framed photos and knit scarves and mitts, to “joke” presents such as the massive fishing fly that my brother-in-law tied for my father a few years ago so he could catch a real big fish. Regardless, our new gift exchange has taken the rote giving and receiving of plastic gift cards out of Christmas and replaced it with something that is not only philanthropic, but also something that encourages an element of thought, creativity and good spirit. All things that I think should be present this time of year.
The perfect gift
Christmas can be a stressful time for people. Often they are trying to find a perfect gift while trying to stay within their budget.
Some tips that I have found helpful over the years, which many of my clients have put into practice, include:
- Make a list in advance and don’t be afraid to ask loved ones for ideas. Also, agree to a dollar limit on the exchange. If major gift exchanges are not important in your family, but travel is a top priority, agree to put holiday funds towards a family trip instead of presents.
- Pre-shop or shop online. Do your research before fighting the crowds! This way you can have your stores narrowed down to save on time and driving. Look for stores with good return policies so that you can buy in November when better selection and pricing is available, for example; Black Friday.
Remember: staying on budget also means not paying interest on your credit card! Don’t spend money you don’t have.
- If there has been a trend over the years of your kids being given an abundance of toys they hardly use, consider limiting purchases and contribute towards their education fund. The power of compound interest combined with government grants can make a significant gift towards their learning in future.
It is important to think of what is important to you and your family over the holiday season. I have found that people find more joy when they allocate funds to non-material gifts and spend more time together.