Don’t Sleigh Your Wallet This Christmas

It’s been two years since our economy went “round the bend”. The economic indicators show we’re technically out of recession and even growing… if at a snail’s pace. Still, the Solvency Shark can’t help but feel like he’s still stuck in a recession. My wife and I are very conscious of our funds and discuss them constantly. We save money by spending as little as possible and taking advantage of great deals or coupons when we do.

But Christmas has a way of throwing a crowbar into your carefully built budgets; there are presents for each spouse’s nuclear family and close friends, there are travel expenses involved and even wanton spending on theaters, restaurants and shopping malls. After all, you’ve got to do things with your family when you visit!

Here are a few tricks that my wife and I have agreed on to keep from “sleighing” our budget this Christmas. And don’t worry, readership – these tips should work equally well for those who celebrate Chanukah, Kwanzaa or the birth of Mithra, Attis or Dionysus.

First, we approach the holiday season from a different angle. We can’t just run out and get that $300 piece of electronics for our tenth cousin twenty times removed on our former sister-in-law’s adopted niece’s side. Do like we did: slim your list down to the nuclear family first (brother, sister, mother, father) and go from there. Throw in your grandparents if you’re close to them and any friends that you’ve known since college… but ONLY if you can afford it.

Next, set a reasonable budget and apply it equally. My wife and I have a budget of $20 for each of our family members. We can get them whatever we want as long as it doesn’t go beyond that number. That way, the effects of the recession are spread evenly across our loved ones and nobody can feel worse about it than anybody else. You can’t feel bad that you missed out on that $60 video game when your sister didn’t get that $120 winter coat, either.

Then, get creative with your gifts. My wife and I are redeeming our rewards credit card points to buy gift cards for her grandparents and a “dinner and a movie” coupon for my parents. I am also writing stories for some of my family members to “pad” their $20 budget. It doesn’t cost me any money and – I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but I’ll do it anyways – the handmade gesture kind of feels more like Christmas.

Finally, make sure to treat your immediate-immediate family right. Although we have a budget of $20 for our family, my wife and I have decided to give each other $50. That way, we can get a few more gifts for each other and fill our stockings up with goodies. Plus, our dog needs some Christmas bones and tennis balls, too! After all, it’s OK to splurge (just a teency bit) on the ones you love, even if Rudolph the Recession-Nosed Reindeer is pulling your sleigh this Christmas.

Live well, live well within your means, and remember – that’s how the Solvency Shark seas it!

Stewart Pelto

Stewart Pelto

Stewart Pelto is a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is now the proud recipient of a Master’s degree in French Literature – a degree that honed the same researching and writing skills he uses to write informative articles today. While pursuing this degree, he taught French courses to undergraduate students for two years. What he enjoyed most about the position was the challenge of making difficult concepts readily understandable and accessible to all.

He served as a Senator for the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, fighting to keep tuition costs down for graduate students struggling with their finances and student loans. He also developed his budgeting skills during his time as a Treasurer for the Graduate Romance Association. He enjoyed becoming more active in his local community and working to make a positive effect on his surroundings.

While an undergraduate himself, he spent a year abroad in Europe earning his degree in Spanish and French. While studying in both Sevilla, Spain, and Montpellier, France, he was exposed to the everyday reality of living under different economic and financial systems. Among other interesting travels he has made is a financial pilgrimage to the Spanish stock market in Madrid.

Stewart Pelto brings his rigorous academic education and his international experience to the problem of raising credit awareness and promoting financial responsibility. He hopes that his articles will teach his readers about debt and credit in an easily accessible and readily understandable way.
Stewart Pelto