The holiday season reminds many us of the joy of giving, spending time with family, and having a little time off from work to decompress. However, for many it can be a very stressful time. The joy of giving may be replaced with concerns of unaffordability, and spending time with family and taking time off work may be replaced with the demands of holding a second job in order to keep the lights on and a roof over their head.

When we look back, many of us may recall a holiday season when times were hard, things were lean, and decisions had to be made regarding what was more important. I certainly remember some tougher years in my family during my childhood, but I also remember dreading the holiday season in the early years of my marriage; we didn’t have a whole lot and we really couldn’t afford to buy gifts for each other, let alone our families. Often, we would sacrifice giving to each other to ensure we could give to our families. Looking back, we could have handled that situation much better; our pride got in the way of simply being honest with our families.

So, how can you get the best out of the holiday season when you’re cash-strapped, without racking up a bunch of credit card debt that could take you the next six to eight months to pay off? Here are some creative ways to plan a great holiday season, without cutting out the holiday cheer:

  1. Budget
    Create a holiday budget. A less expensive holiday season starts with a solid spending plan. Look over your finances and decide how much you can reasonably afford.
  2. The Who’s Who
    Trim down the gift list. Make a list of essential people you need to buy for. The rest can get a heartfelt Christmas card.
  3. Set Rules
    For example, we have a rule in my family that we only buy for nieces and nephews under the age of 13 and, for my husband and I, we buy stocking stuffers only.
  4. Gift Of Wine & Cheer
    When it comes to our friends, we go out for a glass of wine as our holiday cheer instead of giving gifts.
  5. Potluck Holiday Dinner
    Throw an affordable holiday dinner. Years ago, when I couldn’t make it back home for Christmas, I would host an “Orphans’ Potluck Dinner”. It was for all of my friends who were on the island on their own for Christmas. Each one would bring a dish, whether it was mashed potatoes, a dessert, or a bottle of wine. What I discovered was that everyone was happy to contribute, and they were more excited about spending the time with friends than being alone.

At the end of the day, most of us will face financial challenges at some point in our lives and the holiday season is where we often feel it the most. The desire to enjoy the holiday season is probably there, but the pocket has other ideas! If you find yourself in a similar situation this holiday season, you may find that focusing your energy on the time you spend with loved ones and friends is far more important than any gift you will ever give.

Carla Seely is the Chief Operating Officer at Freisenbruch. If you would like any further details, please contact or call 441 296-3600 and ask for pensions.