There’s no doubt that stressing out about money can really begin to dominate our lives, especially during the holidays.
Sometimes it’s difficult to keep those thoughts and worries from turning negative. What if I won’t have enough to get the latest Shopkins toy for my daughter? What if I can’t afford to feed my family on Thanksgiving? What do I tell my kids when Santa brings fewer presents than last year?
What if you were able to take all those negative thoughts and worries and turn them into something positive? Living on a tight budget doesn’t have to translate into a life of struggles and going without. Try some of these ways to stay positive on a budget, even when your wallet’s feeling a little thin.
1. Reward yourself for coming in under budget
Make saving a fun challenge, and get your whole family involved. When you come in under budget, give yourselves a little treat by taking half of what’s left over and grabbing dinner out, purchasing gifts for the holidays, or going to a movie together. Just remember, the other half will go back into savings, so you’ll still come out ahead.
This can even turn into a fun game to see who can save the most. To monitor how much you’re under or over budget, set goals for each week, month, or whatever timeframe makes sense by using my easy budgeting guide.
Learn some easy ways to save money on groceries, like planning your weekly meals around grocery store sales!
2. Have fun for free
Find free ways to spend time as a family by checking out your local parks, museums, hiking trails, and more. In fact, we’ve found more than 52 different low-cost and free family activities in every state that you can try!
Another low-cost activity that’s perfect for adults who just need a breather is happy hour. (There’s a reason the word “happy” is in “happy hour!”) I’m always impressed by the deals you can get at restaurants and bars during their happy hours. Drinks that would usually run you $15 a glass are now just $5. And don’t forget the yummy hors d’oeuvres that are also a fraction of what you’d normally pay.
On top of that, many restaurants around the country also offer up to 10% cash-back dining — even for happy hour! Check to see if your favorite bar or restaurant is on the cash-back dining list here.
3. Relax & learn how to meditate
I started meditating three years ago, and since then my life has been far more relaxed and peaceful.
Meditation can help keep you calm during a stressful financial tim and create more positive energy within you if you allow it to. You can find many resources for learning how to meditate online, or see if there’s a group meditation workshop near you.
4. Keep a gratitude journal
Gratitude journals really work! If you’ve never heard of a gratitude journal before, it’s a place where you can write down what you’re grateful for each day and why.
The journal will help you keep things in perspective and remind you that even though finances might be tough right now, you still have a lot to be thankful.
Another positive activity I like to do each day is to be mindful. If you’re not sure how to go about doing this, check out our guide on how to be mindful every day.
5. Use knowledge as power
Getting our heads out of the sand when it comes to our debt and financial challenges can help us stay positive.
Knowledge is power! When you have a plan and write out your expenses, staying on a budget can be less scary. Knowledge allows you to really understand what you’re dealing with in terms of what’s coming in and what’s going out, and it helps you have a plan in place when those bills look overwhelming.
Creating a sense of control over your budget will cultivate a positive feeling for you and your family.
6. Focus on giving
Stop focusing on what you’re spending. Instead, focus on what you’re giving.
Even during the holidays, when flashy new items and soft new clothes are all the rage, you can create wonderful and meaningful gifts for friends and family that won’t cost you a penny.
One idea I love to give out myself is a coupon book filled with redeemable coupons customized for the recipient. These can be a night of free babysitting, helping them organize their closet, walking their dog — the possibilities are endless!
7. Limit temptations
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a great time to find dozens of great deals, and it’s easy to get swept away by all the deal hunting.
One way to keep yourself on track during these big sales is to make a list of all the things you need to buy. These can be gifts for family and friends and even household items. Once your list is finalized, resolve to stick to it and not buy anything not already on it.
Another approach you can take is to make a mini budget for each person you’re shopping for. For example, you can budget $50 for gifts for your child. This way you can pick and choose different items and only end up with gifts you know they’ll be excited to unwrap!
8. Set realistic goals — & stick to them!
It’s always important to set realistic goals — not all budgeting and financial recommendations will work for you, so stick to the ones that do.
You should also aim for goals that go beyond sticking to a certain price tag. For example, set a goal to pay off your credit cards every month. This way you’ll still be able to rack up any reward points, but you won’t be paying extra fees when your charges are held over to the next month.
This strategy will keep you on budget and prevent you from being weighed down by a credit card bill in January.
If you’re after reward points, check out these 5 credit cards that are the best for shopping during the holidays!
9. Shop resale stores during the holidays
If you need winter gear or something fun for the holidays, you can dress your kids at a fraction of the cost by shopping at resale shops.
I’m a huge fan of these stores, especially for special event and dress-up clothes. You can get a complete outfit for up to 90 percent less than the same outfit would sell for when brand new. This strategy is perfect for kids since they grow so fast —they’ll probably only wear those holiday outfits a couple of times!
10. Remember why you’re on a budget
Remember two things: Why you’re on a budget and what the holidays are really all about.
Doing this will help you remember that sticking with your budget is helping you live the best life you can right now.
Maybe you’re saving to buy a house or take a trip. Maybe you’re saving for your child’s college education. Maybe you’ve built a budget because that’s how you can meet your financial obligations each month. Whatever the reason, be proud of yourself for being financially responsible! That’s the best gift you can give yourself — and you deserve it.