It’s that time of the year! When the desire to start making purchases for Christmas start getting shoved down our throats as we’ve now experienced the first family- oriented holiday of the season, Thanksgiving. For some, that means taking on the task of mass producing delicious food for the droves of family members and friends who will be descending upon your home. For others, the holidays means traveling to someone else’s home for a free meal. Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be stressful, as there is increased likelihood to overspend in some areas like food and travel, as well as the increased likelihood of having awkward interactions with family members whom you haven’t seen all year. The last thing that I and the Brown Girl, Green Money crew want you to be is stressed during this time of the year. For this reason, we would like to share Angie’s Unofficial Guide to a Sane and Thrifty Holiday Season. This guide outlines four key areas to keep in mind and that support you not blowing your budget (or blowing up on another unsuspecting person) over the holidays.
• Save up & be flexible
I admittedly procrastinated before buying my flight to DC for Thanksgiving. This is something that I’m working on 😉 But I did save up for the trip as I knew that I would be traveling home this year. Thankfully I had airline money waiting for me to use from an unused flight over the summer, and my savings only had to go towards a rental car and other miscellaneous spending money during my trip. For predictable occasions like holidays, it’s best to have money stashed to the side for this purpose, based on the anticipated amount you expect to need. For example, if you expect that a trip home, that one time of the year, may cost you upwards of $500, then it would be safe to put $50 a month into a savings account to ensure that you have the funds available. When you are ready to purchase your flight, it is advised to not purchase a flight that Wednesday before a holiday or that Sunday after. Both of those dates are popular travel dates and are likely to be more expensive than on other dates. Being flexible with your travel dates will allow you to entertain other less expensive flight options. Also, demonstrating flexibility in terms of the airports you use can also result in cost savings. Both Milwaukee and Chicago airports tend to have cheaper flights than Madison, though these cost savings should be considered along with the time and additional cost of flying from those airports (e.g., bus tickets to the airport) to fully understand any savings experienced.
• Take others up on their hospitality
Ideally you have a family member, friend, or both, who would be happy to extend to you a spare bedroom or empty couch on which to crash during the holidays. If that is the case, graciously take them up on their offer. So you may have to sacrifice your privacy and the luxuriousness of that 5-star hotel, but you will be saving much money in exchange and spending quality time with loved ones in the process. You may also have the option of leftover food if staying with a dinner host. Win-win! Just prepare to be the most awesome house guest they have ever experienced, so that you’re invited back in the future. That means keeping your assigned area clean, being generally courteous and respectful, and offering to help out whenever possible.
• Have fun on the low
So you’re back together with your fav cousins for the holiday weekend and the turn up is real. In some areas, that real turn up can become real expensive, real quick. See what I did there? 😉 Instead of VIP club hopping (or lounge hopping for the grown and sexy), or other similarly expensive activity, why not suggest a game night turn up at someone’s home. You can achieve the same amount of fun, for a fraction of the cost. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t have fun engaging in some friendly competition over Taboo or Cards Against Humanity?
• Just let it go
There’s always at least one. You know, that family member who manages to overstep and ask questions or make insinuations that they probably shouldn’t. And yes, your weight gain doesn’t warrant a lecture nor should inappropriate speculation about your sexuality if you show up to dinner solo. At the end of the day, that person (or persons) has no control over your life nor should they prompt you to take the advice of Crime Mob and knuck if they buck. Now there is a polite and respectful way to check folks, and sometimes that is warranted. But in some instances it’s best just to let things go, as this can make for a much more peaceful and enjoyable holiday for everyone.
Happy Holidays everyone! From the Brown Girl, Green Money team – we hope that you all have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
Angela is a researcher/program evaluator by day, and crime fighter by night. And by “crime”, she means the perceived inability to turn dreams into reality. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share your money story, chop it over life goals, or all things Shonda Rhimes. Also, check out Brown Girl, Green Money on the book of faces at www.facebook.com/browngirlgreenmoney