The holiday season can be tricky if you’re part of a couple and trying to stay on budget. Talking about money can put quite a damper on all the parties and gift giving, but it’s critical for you both to agree on how much money you’ll be spending and what you’ll be spending it on. That way, you can ensure January’s credit card bills don’t bring any stressful surprises.
To give you some ideas on how to do this, we asked a few of our contributors to share their tips on talking about money as a couple:
“It can definitely be hard to talk to your partner about spending during the holidays, so I try to just face it and bring it up as early as possible. That way we have more time to be really thoughtful and intentional about what we buy. If we plan ahead far enough, we can even collaborate on making things, which adds a lot of meaning to the gifts.
“By bringing up spending early and working together on a plan, we can also ease the anxiety about spending a lot by looking for deals, too. I find we always spend a lot more if we’re scrambling, and if we eliminate the scramble by planning ahead, we can also just enjoy ourselves more overall during the holiday season.”
Keep a Spending Tracker
“This holiday season will be the first my wife and I spend as a married couple. We’re excited, but also wary of overspending on gifts. She’s a graduate student and I’m a freelance copywriter, and our income doesn’t give us the freedom to buy something nice for absolutely everyone in our life. Since we received so many great gifts for our wedding this year, we want to return that favor and show that we care about our loved ones during the holidays. “We’ve decided to keep a spending tracker on the fridge, where we write down our daily spending in order to encourage each other not to overspend. Best of all, it’s right next to photos of many of our family members, so we can keep them in mind as we track our spending. We’re planning to make our own gifts for people in order to avoid buying pricey presents. Instead, we’ll make cookies and other treats because we love being in the kitchen together!”
Pick Your “Free Three”
“A lot of added holiday financial stress comes from spending money on things that you don’t necessarily need. Many times you can reuse last year’s items to save some cash. With your partner, pick three things you won’t spend money on this holiday season. Maybe you don’t need a new tree, ornaments or lights. Maybe you send a holiday email instead of ordering paper cards and paying all that postage.
“A great way to start is to take inventory. Go through your closet and see what you can reuse or repurpose, like gift bags and bows from last year. Look for ordinary household items and use them creatively to decorate. A flower vase filled with ornaments can add festive decor without any additional cost.
“The money you save can go towards bigger goals, and when you spend less on the holidays, you leave more space to enjoy them with your partner.”
Share Your Shopping List
“To keep the financial conversation open and transparent with your significant other this holiday season, start a shared shopping list that includes who you’re shopping for and how much you’re spending. Create this in a shared Google Doc or note, and simply list out all the people you plan to shop for, along with how much you’ve spent. You’ll update this as you go, so whether you’re shopping together or not, you can always check-in and see how much is being spent.
“Not only does this make financial communication easier (because you’re always up-to-date with spending), this tactic also ensures that you spend an even amount for all of your loved ones and friends, allowing you to feel great about your spending while staying on budget this holiday season.”