Tips on avoiding holiday overspend

  • Festive exuberance: overdoing it at Christmas can lead to a credit-card bill that makes you miserable in January

    Festive exuberance: overdoing it at Christmas can lead to a credit-card bill that makes you miserable in January

As ever, the approaching holidays tend to take on an exuberant, some would say completely chaotic, life of their own.

What will start out — as thoughts almost every year that “we aren’t going overboard again” — lasts for the first few weeks, then the madness takes over.

We figuratively, almost literally, start to go overboard!

It happens to all us, even when we don’t admit it to ourselves. Then, presto, the holiday is over and a huge letdown follows.


Should we blame it on business, personal, or family, faith, or community year-end expectations?

• Corporate businesses racing to build the final profit margin

• Employees racing to meet their year-end bonus/promotion hopes

• Personal resolve to meet the last new year’s fitness goal (yes, that one) and knowing it will be a huge challenge with the daily holiday food delights

• The incessant relentless message of marketers subliminally suggesting that you are not up to par if your Christmas is not perfect

• Fretting that once again your children will succumb to this “artificial perfection” of Christmas reality

• Setting aside time for elderly relatives

• Continuing ages-old family traditions

• Managing family life, work, children, finances, relationships?

Yes, no doubt about it, holiday stress (and depressions) is all about trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, along with your own. It is especially difficult for parents who cannot give their children the Christmas they would like.

How can we just set simple goals?

Maybe, this year, just resolve to focus on the experiences of togetherness, not the material giving and getting?

Children, of course, won’t buy into that platitude.

They have great, great expectations. Although, isn’t it funny that years later that most of us will say (and I’ve heard it) they’ve forgotten most of the expensive exceptional presents, but will have great recall of some wonderfully, memorable family gatherings.

Well, to be honest, too, we also remember the huge disappointment when Santa did not bring us that hyped-up bike, sled-board, video games, iPhone, pony (how many of you asked for one of those — I did), puppy, kitten, magical doll, largest Lego set, largest set of Crayola crayons, mechanical robot car, drone, playhouse princess tent and on and on.

Those memories, too, become embedded in our minds as to what we would like for holiday traditions, and how we must uphold those images of perfection in our future.

Again, such subliminal expectation stressors!

Quit striving for perfection

We cannot do it all. Otherwise, we will drive ourselves mad.

Reality there, too, is that most of us have holidays that are not perfection, but they are real, and so often, very emotionally rewarding.

Please keep your holiday planning simple

• Don’t get into the comparison gift game. It is a no-win situation, and emotionally diminishing

• Don’t let the children’s expectations and agitation for the same get to you. This is easy to say, not so easy to do. Years ago, our family made handmade gifts for our children to take for gift exchange at school. Our daughter’s gift was thrown away by the recipient with the words, “this is ugly.” It did not meet expectations!

• Don’t succumb to commercial marketing pressure. The plethora of ads overwhelming every social media in existence is offensive and exhausting

• Ignore any disdainful looks when you proffer home-made gifts. You celebrate and give what is comfortable and affordable for you! Isn’t it supposed to be about the thought, rather than the content?

No credit, just cash

How will you pay? You know what I am going to say here.

A borrowed-on-time financed holiday is a burden, not a celebration. It becomes a huge stressor as the payback deadline looms. Don’t fall for the “stars in eyes” marketing traps about how you deserve — to use a charge card to fulfil your dreams and create your memories.

Remember you want to start the new year with stars in your eyes, not those falling to Earth!

Set reasonable spending limits

This is so important because you won’t want a miserable new year, worrying about those big credit card charges.

You may have to have some flexibility here in the numbers of gifts, kinds of gifts, amount of favourite foods and drinks, entertaining days. Keep them simple, comfortable and affordable.

Involve everyone in making magic memories

Invite all guests to create a one-day best memory, use your creativity, for example:

• A memory box

• An original poem

• Paper cutouts

• Nostalgic picture

• A video

• A collection of beach nature findings from high tide

• A drawing and more

Everyone can participate, even small children.

Each person then presents their creation at your holiday dinner, and relates the inspiration they used to make it.

Home-made is real from the heart

Complement your wonderful locally purchased retail gifts with a few home-made items, but only if you have a bit of time left between now and the big day.

Personalised picture frame: purchase an inexpensive second-hand wooden frame at a thrift shop. Sand lightly, repaint a vibrant colour, or spray paint gold/silver. Insert a favourite photo or leave for your recipient to choose.

Mugs recycled, again from thrift shops and filled with home-made fudge, cookies, or Chex mix, tie on a ribbon. Presto. Grans and Gramps love these gifts.

You don’t need a Christmas tree: spray various size palm leaves gold or silver, prop into a heavy clay pot or umbrella stand, drape with lights, presto.

Children won’t like it, but that cash can be used for your other gifts. Plus, you can dispose of these decorations organically, instead of adding to the plastic environmental dump pile.

Be genuine, be yourself

Your personal power at holiday, or any time, is to affirm others. And in doing so, you constantly affirm your own self-worth.

Your genuineness to create a wonderful memory will be more than enough to light up yours and your family’s holiday.

Happy holidays to dear readers and all Bermuda islanders.


The psychology of what makes us crazy at Christmas, Laura Walters, December 18, 2015

25 easy home-made Christmas gifts you can make in 15 minutes,

Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Dual citizen: Bermudian/US. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders and their globally mobile connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Contact:

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Published Dec 14, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 13, 2019 at 11:58 pm)

Tips on avoiding holiday overspend

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