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It's that time of year again -HOLIDAY SEASON!

Authored By: Kyla Ludwig on 10/20/2020

a brother and sister opening a holiday present

The 2020 holidays are upon us! How can that be? It seems like yesterday we were celebrating wrapping yet another holiday season and moving on to a new year. I was delighted with the temporary reprieve before the holidays' stress and anxiety would begin all over again. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the holidays. I truly do. But I also dread the challenges and problems that are inevitable with the holiday season. But now, it's time to enter that stressful time again, hoping any family feuds have blown over and the relationships are repaired. Speaking of wrapping, I'm the kind of gift-giver who prefers gift bags and tissue paper as well as greeting cards from the local dollar store. It seems like a waste of money to spend full retail prices on materials used only to camouflage what lies inside. The short life of gift wrap is what I'm referring to here. The time and effort spent on something so temporary is a waste in my mind. It's destroyed in a matter of seconds. I've already spent enough of my precious time trying to find the perfect gift for those who grace my list. Because in my household, the gifts must be spot on for each and every one.

 

So what does a holiday cost anyway?

Let's face it! The holidays can be quite costly. More family gatherings than can fit on my calendar, gift-giving for more people regardless of when you saw them last, properly decorating both the inside and outside of your home, donning festive attire, grand feasts to prepare, and miles to travel. All that prep and fuss starts way before the season arrives. More and more, I notice my family and friends starting to shop earlier than they have in year's past. Heck, retailers seem to entice people by putting out the Christmas and Hanukkah holiday décor starting in July! My friends and those stores I speak of have me wondering if I should follow their lead and do the same. I am, after all, a procrastinator to the tee! My friends begin the process early because they're trying to hit the retail sales at the most opportune times for sales. And those sales happen at different times throughout the year. Because of all these "out of season" specials, we've become more savvy and knowledgeable consumers when finding the best deals. Another reason could be that it's a good time to get exactly what you need, well in advance, and have the luxury of time to chip away at the ever-growing list of things gradually. This allows you to take things slowly in your own time in a more manageable way for you and your wallet.

Kids can be very selective.

It can be quite challenging to find the newest hot items and the latest and greatest tech gadgets. Going early, you have got a better chance of finding those items in stock. "Out of stock items remains a point of friction for many consumers during the holiday season, 36% rating it as a top frustration," according to Retail Info Systems (RISnews.com). No more frantic multi-store searches to find that "must-have." Because let's face it, kids can be particular when they create those lists for Santa. And of course, you run the risk of a new "hot item" getting added at the last minute. Better to have those other things purchased, wrapped, and hidden ahead of time, so you CAN spend time searching for that final ultimate gift. I mention kids because I have two of my own. I remember waking up on Christmas morning with my brother and two sisters and immediately running to the Christmas tree, scanning underneath to see what wish list items were there. Usually, we got most of the things on that list (bless my parents!). I want my very own children to experience that same excitement and joy. And I know I'm not alone in this wish for holiday happiness. When it gets to be crunch time, and there are still super gifts left on those lists, I panic as the final days draw near, and my patience dwindles with the hours remaining.

Bigger kids, bigger dreams

As my kids get older and bigger, their expectations grow right along with them. Well, you know what that means -bigger and more expensive items out of need (big kid ski boots cost more than toddler ski boots) or pure wants (a beloved stuffie is now replaced with the need/want for a new iPad). Ah, how I miss the days when my kids were more excited and thrilled with the packages themselves, rather than the gift. Not sure that I would have gotten as much pleasure out of the process if I'd left simple empty boxes under that tree as gifts back then.

Holidays in 2020 are so different than any previous year.

According to a survey by Credit Karma, "this year's holiday gatherings will definitely be different. Changes in tradition and routines because of COVID-19 mean the holidays will be different than 2019 in ways we could never have imagined. The holidays began stressing me out well in advance this year. The season started on the wrong foot when I told my parents my family would not be visiting them because of restrictions on out-of-state travel. Just great! I've already disappointed and upset my parents, who desperately want to see their grandchildren in person and spend time with them, creating lasting memories. They won't settle for a few Facetime or Zoom chat sessions. Unfortunately, that in-person celebration is all my parents want. Did I mention that kids aren't the only ones who dream of particular gifts? Unfortunately, this year I can't seem to work out the details and come to an agreeable solution for all. You know by now, one of my biggest desires to find that perfect gift for my family and friends. I can't satisfy or please my parents in this scenario. Strike one! Something tells me strikes two and three aren't far behind. 

But there is always an upside to the holidays, too.

Now that I've griped and groaned about the holiday season and the challenges it brings, let me be clear, there is also much enjoyment. Contrary to the opinion readers have probably formed about me as a reader, I'm not the Grinch. Here goes the list of those things positive and appreciative I find about the holidays.

Decorating for the holidays. 

Decorating is one of my favorite things to do in preparation for the holidays, and it can be quite expensive in its own right. Since 2004, the average expenditure on holiday decorations has increased more than 69%, according to InvestmentU.com. I've amassed quite the collection of snowmen, wreaths, and ornaments galore. Many of the ornaments were created by my husband and me when we were kids. Now our very own kids are carrying on the tradition with their original works of art. Some of my favorites include pictures of them over the years. The ones with artistic use of handprints or fingerprints add that extra special personal touch.

Sharing the joy of the season.

Even though I complain about all the work, time, and effort I put into making the holidays just right, it is honestly all worth it in the end. Sharing the joy of the season with family and friends as we take a pause from our busy lives filled with work and commitments to celebrate with one another is what makes the holidays the best time of the year. I come from a family of four kids. Over the years, it becomes increasingly difficult for us, my brother and sisters, and their own children, to find times to get together during the year. But at the holidays, no matter what's going on during the rest of the year, we put our differences aside as we share the joy and laughter recollecting holiday stories from our past. These were the times that mattered most to my parents, and we were happy to be a part of them.

In the absence of travel.

With the 2020 holiday season changes and challenges, I still anticipate spending close to what I have in previous years. I can't see my compulsion to find and purchase "the perfect gift" changing any for me this year. Old habits die hard. I will probably go down the path of spending more than I'd anticipated or budgeted for. One expense I don't have to worry about is travel. Many of us travel to visit with family and friends. The CDC is advising people to limit this year's travel or dismiss it altogether. The risks for spreading the transmission of COVID-19 is increased exponentially. They're encouraging that we find other ways to reach out to those near and dear to us. Zoom, facetime, and other electronic chat methods might be the best way to go.   

Start planning for next year's celebrations now.

I'm not much of a planner, but I'm learning more and more that I should become one. Planning can prevent undue stress. Worrying about the many things I do, most of all, finding the time and money to the things I want to, don't need to cause financial distress or the worries one faces when having procrastinated. Many banks and credit unions offer holiday club savings accounts. You put aside funds throughout the year to cover all the expenses when the holidays come near. This is a great option for those of us wanting to make things easier on ourselves. There's usually no minimum balance requirement to start or maintain and no maintenance fees. Funds can be deposited or withdrawn at any time. The savings add up as you're benefiting from earning interest the same as regular savings accounts do. Your money isn't tied up if you should choose to or have a need to use the funds along the way. Once the time comes, the funds are transferred from your savings account and moved into your checking account. This usually takes place in mid to late October. I'm going to open a holiday savings account as soon as the dust settles and the bills are paid off from this year's expenditures. 

Plus, I don't want any credit card balances carrying over from one month to the next. Then I'll essentially have spent even more on the gifts with the credit card interest on the remaining balances taken into consideration. I've unfortunately run into this predicament a time or two. As I've learned the hard way, if this happens to you, consolidating debt by transferring balances to a credit card with a lower interest rate or, even better, a 0% APR introductory rate for a limited time. The trick is to pay off these balances as quickly as you can. You'll want to make especially sure to pay off the card with the 0% interest rate before the timeframe is up. If you don't do this, you'll start paying an interest rate and usually a much higher one at that. We have many credit card options to choose from in finding the right one for you.

Maybe you don't want to open an additional credit card for the consolidation of credit card debt. Then a personal loan may be the way to go. This is a good option for those who desire a predetermined and set monthly payment amount and a low fixed rate throughout the term. With a personal loan, there's no need to use your assets as collateral. You can use the funds however you want for whatever your need may be. Writing this blog article has served as a reminder to myself about the many options and resources out there for facing the overspending dilemma.

Let's say we go ahead and wrap this up.

I'm excited about the 2020 holiday season, and you should be, too. With all things considered, when it truly comes down to it, the holidays bring people much joy and happiness. Whether it is being together physically in one location or by other means of modern electronic communication, the holidays bring us together in spirit. Many fond memories are made to look back on and tell year after year. Traditions are repeated, and even new ones are created along the way. I'm excited to see what this season brings. We may be pleasantly surprised!

 



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