Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Holiday Fun—Or Funds

Originally published in December 2022. Article has been updated.

December brings with it so many additional items to our already busy schedules. From shopping and baking to organizing holiday gatherings and wrapping, there’s a lot on our plates. There’s also the added impact to our wallets. Additionally, managing your finances and expectations during the holidays are great lessons for your children. Making sure your funds, and yourself, aren’t stretched too thin, are not only important life lessons for them, but will also show that with proper planning, even the jolliest of holiday elves won’t turn into a stressed-out Grinch.

It’s important to have a plan in place to help keep the merriment in your merry holidays. Here are a few tips to consider as well as some lessons to teach your children.

1. Make a list and check it twice. With mobile apps and online retailers, it’s easier than ever to gain access to the cost of items you plan to purchase ahead of time. This allows you to map out a strategy for gift purchases for friends, family, and co-workers that you will be buying for this year. This is also a great technique to teach your children that they can also use outside of the holiday season. Armed with your solid list and plan, have your children shop ahead and order online with you before the final shipping date cut-off so you are sure to get everything on your wish list.

Get an early start on saving for next year’s holiday expenses with a savings account from First Bank.

2. Take advantage of sales, special promotions, coupons, and cash back rewards. With so many special offers during the busy shopping season, it can get a little overwhelming. Consider purchasing all of your gifts using only one debit or credit card, so it allows you the ability to easily keep track of how much you are spending. Teach your children how to comparison shop at various retailers to take advantage of any coupons or coupon codes available to help you save money. This is a good time to utilize any unused cash back rewards you’ve accumulated from your credit card purchases or app rewards throughout the year. Also, bring any unused gift cards with you while you shop.

3. Factor in other holiday-associated costs. In planning for a stress-free holiday, you’ll want to consider all expenses that may be coming your way. Will you be shipping gifts to out-of-town relatives? Are you hosting this year’s holiday meal? Do your decorations need purchased, replaced, or updated? What about travel expenses, including gas, tolls, or airfare? Don’t forget to factor in any planned or unplanned donations and seasonal giving. All of these additional items can really add up and is a great lesson to teach your children to plan accordingly for all costs associated with an event or holiday.

4. Set expectations. If you’ve decided to keep this holiday simple and not do gift exchanges that you’ve done in previous years or would like to keep spending to a minimum, set the expectation ahead of time. Chances are, many others would also like to simplify their holidays and will be glad to also pare parties, gifts, or exchanges. Host potlucks, play games, exchange names, bake gifts, or put your talents to work and create your own gifts instead of taking on the stress of gift exchanges. However, you have chosen to celebrate the season, honor your wishes and your plans.

5. Stay alert and watch for fraudsters. Unfortunately, during the holidays, many criminals see this as an opportunity to trick you so they may steal your information or your hard-earned money. Don’t let them! Teach your children the importance of staying alert and monitoring bank accounts and other financial information for unauthorized purchases or activity. Be careful what you click on and only purchase online from reputable sites and retailers. If you suspect you’ve been a victim, alert your bank as well as your credit card company. Visit First Bank’s Security Hub for more tips on keeping your information safe.

6. Make time for some fun! It’s easy to get caught up in the never-ending to-do list and activities, making holiday fun and traditions to get overlooked. Turn on some holiday tunes or movies and bake some cookies, build a gingerbread house, make a craft, host a cookie exchange, or sit and relax with a good book.

The holidays should be a festive time, not a time that leaves you feeling overwhelmed or over-budget. Help your child understand the importance of planning, sticking to your list, not being afraid to say “no” to events you didn’t wish to attend, maintaining your established healthy habits, and enjoying the simple pleasures of the season. Enjoy your holiday.