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Enjoy the Holidays on Your Own Terms

Man Unloading Xmas Gifts

The weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of the year are crammed with opportunities to partake in traditional seasonal activities—many of which involve significant spending. During this time, it’s easy to succumb to certain expectations of how you’re “supposed to” celebrate. But the reality is that you get to decide what will make your holiday season the most meaningful and magical. Here are a few ways to hit the reset button when you find yourself getting caught up in the craziness of the holidays.

Prioritize and analyze

What makes the holidays so special for you? Is it being surrounded by the appropriate “stuff,” or is it just seeing smiles on the faces of those you care about? By slowing down and thinking about your real goals for the holiday season, you may be able to avoid a great deal of nonessential spending.

Shop early

Many media messages focus on pushing you to hit the stores—or the websites—at a predetermined time. From “One Day Only Sale” to “Black Friday” to “Small Business Saturday,” you’re bombarded with appeals to make a hurried purchase. While you may get some deals during these buying frenzies, you’re also more likely to overspend when you’re in a pressure-packed environment.

Take the weight off your shoulders

Are you the kind of person who takes pride in delivering the “perfect” holiday experience for your family? If so, first take a step back and realize that there is no such thing. Then give yourself permission to let a wonderful holiday experience happen for your family based on the simple pleasure of time together.

Set your own expectations

Sometimes the pressure of the holidays isn’t just about making your loved ones happy. Case in point: If you live in an area where most families decorate their home with copious amounts of lights and other decorations, you may feel like you’re letting others down by not making your own glitzy winter wonderland. But remember that when the bills start to come due, no one else is going to be there to help you pay.

Celebrate late

There’s nothing that says you have to exchange gifts on a particular date—or at all for that matter. But if you do want to buy presents, consider postponing purchases until the last few days of December or early January. Typically, the actual best deals are available after December 25.

Give hours

Charitable appeals abound at the end of the year. While this is a magnificent way to embrace the spirit of giving, it also needs to make sense your financial situation. If you’re feeling pressured to contribute beyond your present ability, consider donating time instead. Not only will it save you some dough, but you’ll be able to directly experience the fruits of your generosity.

As you plan your holiday budget this season, using a few tricks to keep your focus on what matters most can help to create more memories and less debt.