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As a married man with young kids, I am constantly aware of the pressures of parenting. Social media creates a view that is inconsistent and unattainable for many. We see the highlight reels of life rather than the true struggles of parenting. We are quickly approaching a time when this is amplified even more: the holiday season.
Consumerism has replaced the holiday spirit as the expected output during this time. We’ll soon see the gifts that everyone else receives, the get-togethers planned, and the magic of the holidays packaged up for young kiddos to enjoy. While no two situations are similar, it’s a natural feeling to compare your experience to others. In an attempt to empower your wallet and keep your heart in the right space, I’d like to offer a few suggestions for how you can manage your spending through the holidays.
Want, Need, Wear, or Read
The first trick is the spending hack known to many parents as “Want, Need, Wear, or Read.” Your child, if they’re anything like our 3-year-old and 18-month-old, are entertained by a stick and some leaves. I recognize that might change as they age, but for now, I am going to lean into that wide-eyed youthfulness.
When purchasing for your young kids, or maybe a young relative, stick to the categories of want, need, wear, or read. This will help reduce clutter and also keep your mind in the right spot as you shop. Does my child need some new socks? Cross those off your list! Is my child at reading age, or can I maybe buy some extra storytime books for our bedtime routine? These purchases carry significantly more value than the random toy that your child had no clue existed until it showed up on the holiday morning.
Related: Values-Based Budgeting: Spending Your Money on What You Love
Another suggestion is to practice gratitude daily by having conversations with your partner and children about the blessings you currently have. Impulse buying is a quick shot of dopamine as we feel the enjoyment of a new item. And it doesn’t just happen at the register anymore. The internet has allowed us to purchase items and have them delivered directly to our doorstep in under 48 hours.
Brainfodder.org has a great piece about the science and psychology behind impulse purchasing. These purchases help to “dampen our unhappy thoughts and self-doubt.” To combat this impulsivity, practice gratitude by openly recognizing the life you currently have. Sharing your gratitude will help you feel content in your current situation and keep an honest perception of the life you have. These positive feelings will slowly help you feel empowered and able to withstand the temptations of keeping up with the Joneses. It also helps your household buy-in, which brings everyone a renewed sense of thankfulness and contentment.
Consult your holiday calendar
A final tip is more practically aligned with your budget. When setting up your holiday budget, make sure you also reference your calendar and events. Within that calendar, stick to only one planned outing that you’ll spend money at. That doesn’t mean restricting yourself, and the moments you spend with your family, but you do not need to pay to attend Cornish Christmas, the City Tree Lighting ceremony, the Visit to Winter Wonderland, and every other commercialized event.
Your family doesn’t need to buy the sweet treats and holiday decor at all of these events. Bring along some cocoa and enjoy being in the company of your loved ones, and watch how your children still light up as they experience the true meaning of the holiday spirit. A stroll downtown is just as magical as a visit to “Santa’s Workshop” at the local amusement park.
Related: Best Family Budget Apps
Cherish holiday memories
Ultimately, your willingness to practice gratitude and wise planning will leave you feeling empowered this holiday season. Your children remember the memories just as much as the gifts they receive. Our three-year-old has asked for a big red ball this Christmas. We’re so excited to purchase that for her. But more importantly, we’re excited to donate some of her old stuffies to local groups and drive through our neighborhood, showing her all of the beautiful light displays. We’re looking forward to cuddling up to watch holiday movies and recollecting all of the wonderful gifts we already have in life.
By practicing the above suggestions, we know that the lessons we’re teaching our children will serve them better than any gift we could’ve purchased. And for us, that is the greatest gift of all.
What holiday budgeting tips do you use to save money while enjoying the season? Let us know in the comments.
Justin Brown-Woods is one-half of the team at Price of Avocado Toast alongside his wife Haley. This married couple began their podcast during their debt-free journey after blowing $600,000 and eventually paid off $132,000 in 18 months. They have since created a financial coaching business where they walk alongside others on their journey toward debt freedom. They live in Northern California with their two daughters, Calliope and Kennedy.