The first holiday during or after a divorce is often filled with a lot of emotions, including sadness, anger, stress, relief, and even some happiness. One contributing factor to negative holiday feelings with a divorce is finances. After a divorce, money may be tight, and this can make the holidays more difficult.
During your first holiday as a divorced person or someone going through a divorce, it can be tempting to look for distractions so you don’t have to deal with what you are feeling. For some people, this will mean buying expensive decorations or giving out very costly gifts. If, for example, you have a new partner, you may feel as if you have to impress them with gifts.
If you have a child, financial stress during the holidays can be significant. You may feel as if you have to buy more gifts than you normally would because you feel guilty about the breakup of the relationship with their other parent and want to make your child happy.
However, whatever your motivation, it’s important to keep in mind that holiday spending can make an already-shaky financial foundation even shakier. Before you spend for the holidays, use the three tips below to craft a holiday budget that will keep everything under control.
Evaluate Your Financial State
Look at your current financial state to determine just how much you can actually spend on gifts and other holiday items and events this year. Once you calculate what you could realistically spend, use this figure to draft a budget to follow. You must stick to the budget to avoid overspending and ending up in a January financial hole.
One way to do this is by creating a spreadsheet with different categories so you can easily track your spending. You can create categories for each person or even by item types, such as cards, food, decorations, or gift wrapping items. Once you have a number set for each category, stay within this limit.
Don’t Use Your Credit Cards
It’s very convenient to just use your credit card for everything but avoid this trap. It’s really easy to spend money you don’t have, and this will result in you being in a deeper level of debt after the holidays. If you can, take cash out of your bank account to make purchases so you know just what you are spending. If you are using a debit card or writing checks, immediately enter those figures into your spreadsheet so you don’t lose track of your spending.
Resist the Urge to Compete With Your Ex-Spouse
It’s normal for you to want your kids to be happy and like you in general, and it’s definitely true during the holidays after a divorce. This can lead you to want to buy the biggest and most expensive gifts for your child so you receive more attention from them and feel like the “better” parent.
Naturally, this is not a good idea. You will probably go over your budget, and you’re placing your children in a situation that fosters an unhealthy mindset in them. Put your kids first by working with your co-parent, if possible. Coordinate the gifts so you’re not each buying the same things, or chip in together to get them a special, more costly gift.
Staying within your holiday budget is crucial for creating a strong post-divorce financial foundation. Focus on the joy of the holiday itself wherever you can find it, and fight the urge to overspend on items that ultimately will not bring you happiness anyway.