I love to start any discussion about couples and holiday season spending with a true story about a good friend. The first year she was married, her husband spontaneously bought her a new car for Christmas. He even put a giant red bow on it! He was so proud of himself and couldn’t wait to see her reaction when he gave it to her. It’s pretty safe to say that he did not get the reaction that he was expecting. She was livid! She was not in the market for a new car and to her this was a waste of money. Whereas, he thought the more money he spent on a gift, the more he showed he loved her.
Doing Christmas with a partner is combining more than just a shopping list. It is combining traditions, family, obligations, expectations and all the joy and stress that comes along with that.
The Christmas season tends to go one of two ways. It can be a time of great joy and intimate connection with family and friends or, if we are not careful, a time of great conflict and division. However, if we are intentional, the holiday season is an opportunity to learn about our partners and to grow closer together. Use the holiday spirit to get to know each other and learn new ways that you can make each other feel loved.
Get To Know Your Partner
Before you start talking about what to put under the Christmas tree for each other, find out how important gifts are to your partner. When my husband and I were dating, we read the book, ‘The 5 Love Languages,’ by Gary Chapman. The idea is that there are 5 different ways that people show and feel loved: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service, and gift-giving.
We recognized that gift-giving is our lowest love language – meaning it’s not how we naturally show love or feel love. This gave us the freedom to reduce the stress of finding the perfect gift for each other and save some money as well, by not buying each other gifts.
This works for us, but if you have a partner that feels loved by receiving gifts you may have to work outside your comfort zone. Even if it’s not your favourite way to show love. Gift givers don’t need big gifts to feel loved, they just want to know that you thought of them.
Get to know each other’s love language:
- Take the Love Language Quiz.
- Discuss your love languages with each other.
- Learn what makes you each feel most loved.
- Incorporate more of your top love languages into your holiday season.
Money Scripts® & Christmas Gifts
If you and your partner can not agree on who to buy gifts for and how much to spend, it could be their parents’ fault! Your in-laws are always to blame right?! (Just kidding – sort of!). Events from our childhood can hardwire our brains to believe things that we’re not even aware of. Eventually, these thoughts can turn into what is called our Money Scripts®, a term coined by Financial Psychologist Brad Klontz. Things like:
“The more presents my kids get, the happier they will be.” “My kids will be happier if they can learn to live with less.” “We shouldn’t spend money on things we don’t need when there are people in the world without food.” “I’m not showing love if I’m worried about the cost of the presents I’m buying.”
These thoughts can come from a single experience or can be something that you were taught over and over. You may have learned to do things the same as your parents (or someone else) or you may have learned to not become like them. These thoughts are partially true, but that also means that they are partially false.
Start To Uncover Your Christmas Money Scripts® By Journaling And Discussing These Steps:
Make a list of your Christmas shopping behaviours. Ex: I buy my kids everything on their list and then have credit card debt in the new year.
What are the thoughts that drive these actions? (This can take some deep introspection!) Ex: I want my kids to be happy.
Where did this thought come from? (Here’s where you may blame your parents and in-laws!) Ex: I didn’t get very much for Christmas as a kid and felt really jealous seeing all my friends’ new things.
If this thought is sabotaging your finances or your relationship, reframe it. Ex: I will buy my kids as much as I can without going into debt. We have lots of other holiday events and traditions that make the season special. I don’t want my kids to be entitled either.
Discuss all of this with your partner. Be open-minded, understanding, and empathetic. Use this to learn something new about them.
Going through this process won’t immediately change your thoughts so that you and your partner are perfectly aligned. But, it can help you understand each other better and hopefully empathize with where you each are coming from. Compromise will always be necessary.
Get On The Same Page Financially
In order to know what a financial compromise is, you need to work together to make a plan. You need to know what you can afford to spend and who you are going to spend that money on.
Step 1: Make a Gift List
Make a list of all the people you both want to buy gifts for. Don’t forget to include kids’ teachers, gifts from Santa Claus, work gift exchanges, and stockings. All of these little gifts can add up.
Step 2: Decide How Much You Can Afford To Spend In Total
Take a look at your income and expenses available between now and the holiday season. Make sure that all of your needs are going to be met. Then decide what you can actually afford to spend on Christmas gifts. It is not worth going into debt to buy your kids more Christmas presents.
Step 3: Divide Up Your Christmas budget
Divide up your spending budget between everyone on your gift list. This can take time, sacrifice and compromise. Work as a team with your partner toward the same common goal. If this seems like an impossible task, check out other blog posts on ways to save money on Christmas gifts!
Step 4: Start Saving for Next Year
After Christmas, start a gift budget for 2023. Use this GIFT LIST spreadsheet to figure out how much you would like to spend on presents over the whole year, including Christmas. The spreadsheet will total it all up and divide the total by twelve. Every month, deposit that amount into a separate savings account, nicknamed GIFTS. Then when you go shopping for gifts throughout the year, you have money set aside. No more Christmas debt!
Make 2022 your Christmas without fights and without added debt!
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!