Erik Wecks, Author of How to Manage Your Money When You Don't Have Any and Contributor to GeekDad on Wired.com, shared advice for surviving the emotional and financial guilt of the holiday season.
1. Live by your values even during the Holidays.
Emotions and money get mixed together all the time. This isn't necessarily bad. It's only bad when we are not in control of our emotional response to money.
The holidays are a time when people tend to use money in particularly emotional ways. It is often these emotionally based choices with money which cause people to pull out the credit card and go deeply into debt during the holidays.
The answer: Pay attention to your emotions. Make sure that shame and guilt have no say in your financial decisions.
Don't use money as an answer for pain.
2. What will kids remember?
Everyone wants to create holiday magic for their children or grandchildren. The tendency is to try to do that through extravagant gifts.
Roots of the holiday come from traditions of family, and relationship based giving.
Challenge 1: give gifts which celebrate the relationship with your kids. Gifts of time. Take them to see a play at the Northwest Children's theater or give them a fishing pole and take them out fishing. Give them a bat and then teach them to hit in a batting cage. These relationship based gifts are the gifts the kids will remember.
Challenge 2: give intelligently to those in need. The UNHCR says that it would only take between 10 and 12 billion dollars to provide clean water to everyone on the planet. Water born illness is estimated to kill one child every minute. According to the LA Times Christmas sales for 2012 are expected 586 billion dollars.
Do this giving in front of your kids. Teach them to give not just to get.
3. Avoid plastic/Use cash.
The social science studies are quite clear using credit cards or debit cards causes people to overspend.
The advantage to cash is that you can see when you are running out of money. When you use plastic, even debit cards, you cannot tell when you are going over your budget and you cannot recognize when you are spending money that is designated for someone else on your Christmas list. This overspending causes the credit card to come out of the wallet to make up the gap.