If you’re trying to get out of debt, this time of year can easily become crazy and stressful.
You want to go all out and have fun, but you know that “going all out” is what got you in trouble in the first place.
So what’s an early Baby Stepper to do?
What you need is a good plan—and, sometimes, a good plan is as much knowing what not to do as knowing what to do. Well, heed these warnings, regardless of what Baby Step you’re on! If you want to have a merry different Christmas, you might not want to do the following things:
Try to keep up with the Joneses.
That’s just not a good idea. The Joneses are broke. They have a lot of bills, ridiculous car payments and tricked-up mortgages. But at least they look good! Have you seen Mrs. Jones’ hair? Wow! That’s fancy! But despite the good hair, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You don’t need her hair, and you don’t want their debt following you into 2013.
Mistake Batman for food.
Come again? You need food. You need shelter. You need clothing. Your son doesn’t need the $100 remote-control Batmobile. Would that be awesome? Of course! But you don’t need it. Keep your priorities in focus during Christmas. Do what you can, and don’t spend more than you have—even if it’s an awesome Batmobile.
Give presents to everyone in your family.
Most of us simply can’t afford to give a $20 gift card to every brother, sister, aunt, uncle and cousin in the family tree. But we do it anyway. A lot of times, it’s out of some vague sense of guilt or obligation. Instead of giving something to everyone, you can have a family drawing where people draw names out of hat. Then, you’re only responsible for the person whose name you have drawn.
Plus, if it’s been a trend over the past few years to just exchange gift cards that everyone picks up at the last minute at the end-of-aisle kiosks, is it really meaningful and worth the effort?
Let the stores determine your plan.
The mall will suck you in and spit you out like a bad piece of fruitcake. Going to the mall without some type of plan of attack is like going to a donut factory without expecting to gain weight. If you don’t go in with a purpose, all the shiny, bright plastic stuff will draw you in like a moth to a flame. Make a plan and stick to it.
Cover every inch of your house and yard in lights.
There’s nothing wrong with a little festivity. Who doesn’t love seeing a house wrapped in lights on a cold December evening? But if your power bill triples during the Christmas season, and if you can’t seem to avoid buying 12 new inflatables for your yard every Christmas, then you might want to tone it down a bit.
Treat yourself to something nice … or two or three nice things.
You’d be surprised at how many people, while out gift shopping for others over the holidays, decide to buy something for themselves! Say what? This is why the previous point is so important—don’t go shopping without a plan! The mall will mock you if you attempt to enter its gates without a determined gaze and the willpower of a vegetarian in a steakhouse.
Travel long distances.
Nothing will make you go broke faster than trying to buy plane tickets for a family of five. And that’s just the cost of getting to where you want to go. On top of that, you’ve got lodging, food, a rental car—and, oh, don’t forget the presents! Again, it’s okay to travel. But don’t prioritize going to see the grandparents over providing for your family at Christmas—especially if you have kids. The grandparents are retired. Let them come see you.
You don’t have to buy into the commercial hype that says you must go shopping and come home with a dozen shopping bags and $1,000 in debt. That’s not smart. Or merry. Or festive. Or jolly. It’s just an all-around bad idea.
So don’t make this a Christmas filled with bad ideas and regrets!