The holiday season is the time of the year that really reflects an inner sense of lack we carry. Money is a powerful mirror for how we feel about ourselves. So often we are frugal with money out of insecurity about our ability to make and use money wisely. I want you to know you don’t have to be frugal to save money, nor do you have to sacrifice what you want. I’m not advising greed either, but I am suggesting getting specific about what you truly want.
You will notice that when you’re honest about what you want, life becomes refined; we naturally spend less by spending money only on what matters. Therefore, these three tips I share with you on saving money for the holidays all comes down to prevention and refining. When we are honest about what we want, what are willing to do or not do, we can design a financial plan that is realistic and accomplishable.
Automate Your Expenses
How much time do you spend managing your finances? I’m talking about the simple stuff: paying bills, transferring money from one account to another, etc. Ramit Sethi, financial expert and best-selling author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” says, “If it’s more than an hour a week, it’s TOO LONG!” Though I highly recommended his course material found at his website, there are a few things you can do here today.
The first is to set up direct deposits and withdrawals for all your basic bills and expenses. For example, have your paycheck auto-deposited and your phone bill auto-withdrawn from the same account. There is a psychological purpose for this that benefits us by prioritizing what’s important. Just like good sleep starts at the beginning of the day, saving money starts first in the psychology. If you have your bills automatically withdrawn, it creates a cognitive dissonance within your mind where you know, “I must make X amount of money.” When things become a must rather than a should, we accomplish them.
By automating your expenses this holiday season, you can walk into the stores with a much more realistic figure in your mind about what you can spend, helping you use your available money honestly and wisely. Money flows where it needs to go. This results in better gift choices, giving you a tangible goal for what you are willing to earn and spend, and helping you avoid overspending.
Save For the Unexpected
Miscellaneous expenses are the secret killers of healthy finances. Things happen, and when we aren’t expecting them, they cause financial stress. Let’s be honest, things are going to come up during the holidays: snowy fender benders, those five extra cousins you forgot you had to buy gifts for, that cute pair of shoes that were made just for you, the holidays can have its way with us.
Be realistic about the potential miscellaneous expenses you’ve accrued in the past; how are things the same, how are they different? Then, when you generate a figure, put it into your expenses so you can see what you will have to actually make to cover your holiday shopping. By knowing these “unexpected” costs before they happen, you’ll be ready for them. If you had an extra 100 dollars configured into your budget this year, how can be you be mad if things show up?
When you expect to spend a little over budget and actually have the finances for it, then it’s no big deal. If anything, you save some of it and it’s icing on the Christmas cake!
As you may have noticed so far, I haven’t told you to actually “cut back” on anything to save money. Suppression doesn’t work. We often resort to convincing ourselves we don’t need something we want rather than doing what it takes to get what we want. The truth is it’s actually a lot easier to welcome something into our lives than to resist what we don’t want.
Negotiation is a powerful tool to saving money because instead of cutting back on things we love, we get to save money on things we don’t. Make a list of the expenses you have that you aren’t overly joyful about having: cell phone bills, insurance, or cable and internet to name a few. Call these companies and negotiate your rates. Sadly, we were never taught to negotiate anything, let alone believe we can have what we deserve. To negotiate is not to be dishonest. Not all negotiations will work, but with a few simple questions you may be surprised what you can get with honest discussion.
Consider these guidelines for the script of your call. First of all, do not beg, discuss. Secondly, let them know your conditions. Are times tough and their services are something you want to continue to receive but are struggling to keep? Let them know. Another tip on negotiating your rates is in the asking. Instead of “Can you give me X dollars off?” ask, “How can you help me keep your services?” Most companies will negotiate in order to keep you as a customer, rather than lose you completely. If you are able to save just $25.00 a month on your insurance bill, that will cover the cost that new pair of shoes in just a few months, no sacrifice required.
The overall goal of “saving” has mostly been to live a stress-free financial life. “Stress-free” doesn’t have to be the outcome however. Rather, by being honest about what you need and want and preparing for it, we make “stress-free” the cause and a healthy financial situation the outcome.
The holidays do not have to be stressful; with a little bit of honesty, preparation, and communication, we can really refine what’s important and live in more harmony. Additionally, the holidays do not have to be the only season for giving, and they can be a great time to retrain our minds to focus on what is important. You will find that with these tips you get exactly that: what’s important to you, your loved ones, experiences, sharing, helping, and simplicity.