budget

Family Feud: 5 Holiday Fights to Stop Before They Start

4 Minute Read

During the holidays, we want our families to get along, our gifts to impress, and our meals to amaze.

That’s why it’s so easy to fall into family feuds and money fights this time of year. But what if you could stop the drama before it begins?

Well, you can.

First, though, you’ve got to sit down and talk.

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Here are five conversations to have now, before they turn into full-blown money battles later on.

Related: Fighting Fair: How to Have a Good Money Fight

1. Family Visits and Travel Expenses

One of the age-old problems of the holidays is that every family gathering seems to be scheduled on exactly the same day. Before the headache of picking sides begins, sit down with your spouse and reach some healthy compromises.

Who can you visit at Thanksgiving instead of Christmas? How much can you afford to spend on gas and air travel? Would it be cheaper if you exchanged gifts a few weeks after the holiday rush, instead of smack-dab in the middle of the season? Ask and answer these questions in a calm, rational way and then stick to your guns as a team.

2. The Gift List

Have you ever had one of those I-can’t-believe-you-spent-so-much fights? Don’t raise your hand. Before purchasing a single present this year, make a detailed list of everyone you plan to buy for and put a dollar amount beside each name. Our free EveryDollar budget tool can help you do just that. Priorities will naturally rise to the top—like your spouse, kids and parents. Then add close friends and relatives, followed by teachers, pastors and acquaintances.

Remember, gifts are a blessing, not a burden. So only spend what you can afford and let your best be good enough. 

3. Entertainment and Eating Out

It’s easy to get carried away by the spending spirit and treat your family to endless restaurants, movie tickets and drive-thru hot chocolates. But all that unbudgeted fun is a recipe for a beans-and-rice diet come January.
An easy fix? Sit down as a family and create cash envelopes for eating out and entertainment. And be sure everyone knows exactly how much is in each envelope. That way, you can all make smarter decisions with the family’s fun money.

Related: Need an envelope system? We have options for you!

4. The Christmas Tree

This is a silly thing to argue about, we know. But a Christmas tree is your home’s holiday centerpiece—you decorate it with your kids, display it in your front window, and tuck your beautiful presents underneath it. So the question remains: real or fake?

While an artificial tree will save you time and money in the long run, it’s hard to mimic that authentic woodsy smell of a fresh tree. We get it. But that’s no reason to let a little greenery take away your Christmas cheer. It doesn’t matter which one you choose—as long as you’re in agreement and it’s in the budget. Rock, paper, scissors?

Only spend what you can afford and let your best be good enough. 

5. Charitable Gifts

Many charities rely on year-end giving to keep the lights on and the doors open. That’s why there’s a big push for funds around November and December. But if you’re not sure how much you can give, it’s easy to let the offering plate pass you by and blame your spouse for overspending on the kids.

This year, take some time to decide how much you can donate to your charity of choice—even if it’s not much. Then give that amount away before the hectic pace of the holidays sets in. You won’t regret it.

Break the tension this holiday season by having some tough money conversations before the buying and traveling frenzy begins. With a proper budget, there’s no good reason to have a bad Christmas.

Get a jump start on your shopping for everyone on your list. Our Gift Finder tool makes it easy to shop for the perfect gifts in every price range.

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