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Managing the cost of Christmas

Tags: money worries, Christmas
Categories: Money

In these tough economic times, many of us are worried about how we’re going to make ends meet over the Christmas period.

Expenses often seem to spiral out of control at this time of year; on top of the usual bills, we have to buy gifts, food, decorations and spend money traveling around the country to visit our loved ones.

The strain that Christmas spending can put on our bank accounts can also transfer to extra strain on our relationships. Money issues are more than likely to cause arguments between partners, so it’s not surprising that things can get tense in the lead up to the big day.

Don’t worry, there are ways you and your partner can work through your financial troubles and enjoy Christmas.  In a recent Live Discussion on the CoupleConnection, Simonne Gnessen, founder of Wise Monkey Financial Coaching offered some of her top tips for saving money and avoiding money arguments: 

Spread the cost

‘Starting to shop early is a great way to manage your finances,’ says Gnessen. Spreading the cost of Christmas over a period of time means that your bank account won’t be so badly hit in December.

Create a spending plan

Draw up a spending plan with your partner and identify what you can afford to spend on different areas such as present buying, food shopping and entertainment.

‘It's always a good idea to have a strategy with shared spending,’ continues Gnessen. ‘Don't forget that you can always revisit decisions at any time. Keeping good communication channels open is the key to success in this area, as it is in all parts of a relationship.’

Agree on who you’re buying for

Buying presents for the in-laws can be a tricky subject, especially if the size of your partner’s family is much bigger, or smaller, than yours. To manage the cost of buying for relatives, Gnessen advises that you write a list of people you buy for and split the planned spend between the two of you. If the list gets too long, pick out the family members that you want to share the spending on, and purchase the rest separately.

Put thought into your gifts

‘Research shows that time and experiences are always the best presents you can give,’ says Gnessen. ‘The more a gift shows understanding of the other person, the more successful it will be. But it does have to be within budget. Too often, people feel pressured to spend money they don't have at this time of the year.’

For more useful tips on how to manage the cost of Christmas, read the transcript from our live discussion with Simonne Gnessen.

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  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    This is a huge issue with my partner and I. We have been together for 22 years, and married 3 years ago. When we met he had been out of his marriage for about two and a half years. He had a five year old son and I had three children 15, 12, and 8.

    He has always had a difficult time with family related issues, I felt it was related to an experience he had as a teen with a step-mother turned monster, once she married his father.

    His son, an only child with ADD, was often a handful and highly manipulative as a child. My partner saw him not as often as he could have, as relations with the ex were tough. As a result, my partner has always handled birthdays and Christmas by giving BIG and hoping it would put him in a favorable light. He would often hide his gift giving to his son from me, or if I bought a gift he would often present it privately, many times without including my name on it. (My partner also refuses to answer the door on Hallowe'en as he says he feels cheap just giving kids a few treats.)

    This year has been financially tough and I have advocated for small gifts or no gifts.

    This is the first year my step-son will have ever joined us for Christmas dinner, and I was looking forward to including him, and said so. He usually travels with his mother to visit her family, though he has had the chance to be with us before and chose to spend the time with his friends. This year he must work the following day and so proclaimed he would like to come for dinner , "So at least I can get a turkey dinner!" Odd response, but not surprising, and I was looking forward to having him with us.

    I have since found out that he told his father that instead of a gift he would just like cash, as he is planning a trip. So, my partner has decided to do that, and has dedicated an amount that exceeds the meager budget I had for all other gifts I was able to buy, plus the turkey dinner!

    When I noted my objection to this, my spouse said that it was his money (I am not working) and he would spend it how he wished. We have not spoken civilly since this came to light.

    As I see it, he has never blended his son into our family, and the two of them seem to be just fine with their secret arrangement whereby Daddy favors his son over everyone else, including me I might add. I have never had a gift from this child, or an acknowledgement of any holiday, and he highly objected to allowing his child to call me Grandma. He lives with his mother still and though his child likes me, he does not encourage the relationship, excluding me from invitations to see the child. My husband is not fond of small children, or so he has always said, but loves the attention he gets from his grandchild. I only see her if my husband asks me to come along to meet and watch the son play sports.

    So, even though there are civil adult behaviors on the outside, inside there are still some resentments, and my husband does nothing to change those behaviors so he must be supporting them.

    My husband has a seemingly great relationship with my other children, and they refer to him as Dad, given the poor relationship their own father provided. I've never told them of the favoritism for his own child.

    I am dumbstruck and angry that he chooses to favor one child in a family over others, and I'm now not sure I want to make like a happy family over dinner with these two men in a family event. In my eyes a family treats everyone equally and with respect and love.

    This is not just about gifts and the cost, but I also cannot get my husband to create a will. He had nothing but debt when I met him and since I have used my inheritance to buy us a house which has appreciated nicely. I wonder if my children will face the same situation if I were to die first? Does it seem like something I should be looking at in the forthcoming years?

    Is this too late to change? I am desperate for advice on this matter, as I fear that divorce may result if this unequal situation continues.

    Fri 14, Dec 2012 at 8:16am