Enjoy the Holidays without Money Stress

How to create traditions that celebrate the season without going into debt. 

There’s no question that the holidays can tempt us to buy our way into the spirit. Decorations, gifts, special outfits, travel—all these things can serve as signals that it’s the holiday season. They can also prompt us to spend more than we are comfortable doing in an effort to capture the spirit.

A more powerful way to harness the holiday spirit is through traditions. They give us a sense of belonging, prediction, and order. When it comes to holiday traditions, that belonging comes wrapped in joy and anticipation. But it can also come with high price tags. Expectations of perfection, lavish parties, huge dinners, gifts for everyone from family to your hairdresser, all can contribute to stress and overspending.

Creating no-cost holiday traditions can help you participate fully in the holidays and embrace the spirit of the season without feeling like they’ve passed you by. Many of us have built-in holiday traditions that we picked up from our families, but there’s no reason we can’t create new ones that honor our preferences and values or just add more fun and joy. Here’s how to create meaningful traditions that honor your values and your budget.

Step 1. Make a list of things you loved doing as a child. Was it a frosty evening walk by moonlight? Cutting your own tree? Serving at a soup kitchen? Gathering donations for people in need? Visiting neighbors? Listening to Christmas music? Hauling out the holiday decorations? Curling up with hot chocolate and a book? Make a giant list.

Step 2. Make a list of the things you end up doing each holiday. Include things like white elephant gift exchanges, office parties, holiday cards, etc.

Step 3. Compare the two lists. Which items from the second list would you be okay to say “no” to? Which from the first are you longing to bring back?

Step 4. Once you’ve seen what you loved, what you miss, and what you end up doing instead, what are you willing to make space for and make a priority? Write down the “must-haves” that your holiday season wouldn’t feel complete without.

Once you have a “shortlist,” you know where to focus your creativity. From there, it’s about choosing two or three things that most excite you to craft a tradition around.

To keep your brainstorm flowing, think about categories. If you love the music of the season, you can take your kids caroling to the neighbors, attend a religious service with music, or a community sing-a-long or free concert. Or you can bust out a particular beloved holiday CD on a certain day each year to signal the start of the season.

If being outdoors lights you up, what are the ways you can build a tradition around that? An annual sledding party? A reflective, peaceful New Years’ Eve winter walk? A snowman making contest?

If giving to others is a core value, what works for you or your family to commit to? Is it a day sorting donations or serving the hungry? Cuddling and walking homeless pets at the local shelter? Baking homemade treats to share with neighbors?

So much holiday tradition centers around food. Is there a treasured recipe you can make every year? Would a community potluck or a cookie decorating night warm your heart?

One of the most important things to remember about traditions is that they spring from consistency and mindfulness. “We do this because this is what we do” is a core refrain in our hearts at the holidays. A tradition can be created from scratch; there’s nothing to say it needs to be handed down.

By honoring what our hearts are hungry for with tradition, we can avoid the trap of trying to buy comfort and joy during the holiday season. The result? Less stress and spending, and more love and peace.

At Aspen Wealth Strategies, we believe in creating a money strategy to build a life you love. Connect with one of our financial planners today to get started on your journey to wealth and peace of mind.

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