How to have the financially secure holiday season you deserve, by Suze Orman

Mom and daughter shopping
November 05, 2021 | Suze Orman

I am sending the most heartfelt wishes that the coming holiday season is full of connection, celebration and fun.

I also want to challenge you right now, weeks before we get into full holiday mode, to avoid over-spending on gifts or travel.

After all, we have been through since the onset of the COVID pandemic, I totally get the urge to focus on enjoyment, at any cost. But you and I also know that what will likely feel so earned and justified in the moment, can end up being a long-term source of anxiety if your holiday spending racks up bills you can’t pay off.

My hope is that right now you think through a holiday spending strategy that will help you avoid a January panicked over bills you can’t pay.

Focus on meaningful, over multitudes

If gift-giving is important to you, the challenge is to shower loved ones and friends with a gift that is meaningful. What you spend is not meaningful. It says nothing about your heart.  

Be wary of “buy now, pay later” offers

You likely have run into a “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) deal when shopping online: In your cart, you’re offered the option of paying just 25% of the bill upfront, and you agree to pay off the rest over the next few months. If you follow the rules, there aren’t any interest charges.

But that’s a big “if.” Miss a payment, and you will be slammed with a big interest charge. What’s even more troubling to me is that when you hit the checkout page and see you only owe 25% of the total cost right now, it can entice you to spend more. Please be very careful if you are considering any BNPL deal.

Make big purchases a family affair

For parents with young children, the desire to deliver a dream gift is undeniably strong. But this purchasing decision is a stand-in-your-truth moment that can have repercussions for years.

If you overspend and end up with credit card debt, that is going to be a costly drain on your family’s finances. Oftentimes, when the holiday spending bill comes due it leads households to cut back on their savings because of the big bills.

There is no “want”—even from a beloved child—that justifies pulling back on building emergency savings and contributing to your retirement accounts. It also sets a bad lesson for that child. You tell me you want your kids to grow up financially smart and secure. Well, your approach to gift giving is part of their learning curve.

A possible workaround is to rope in other family and friends to contribute to this one much-wanted gift. That is, you all pitch in to buy the gift. An added bonus of going this route is that it aligns with the goal of focusing on a meaningful gift, over multitudes.

Make memories with gift experiences

There are serious academic studies that show we get more lasting pleasure out of a gift that is an “experience” than when we’re given stuff. Just something to keep in mind as you draw up your list. Taking a child or grandchild for a special day out doing something out of the ordinary will be fun in the moment, and has the power to be a lasting memory for you both.

Give the gift of time

If you have grandkids, create a homemade gift certificate for your adult kids for a set amount of hours of babysitting time over the next year.

If you’re in a relationship, make a gift card that frees up a few hours a week for your significant other to do whatever they want for self-care, with no judgment. Carving out your intention to hold down the family fort to make it possible for someone you love to have personal downtime is going to be a big hit.

As old-fashioned as it may sound, I hope that each day during this holiday season you remind yourself that people who truly matter in your life would never want you to overspend on their behalf. Your love and your friendship are the most important gift. Please don’t lose sight of that.

Looking for more tips for your holiday season? Check out these blogs:

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