The holidays can be deeply overwhelming as a single mom. It can be difficult if money is tight and it may serve as a reminder of the other parent’s absence. Sometimes we think that it is our job to love or provide for them times two. At one point, I shared with a friend the pressure that I felt as a single mom. I felt like I had to be both parents and make up for the fact that their dad walked out. I told her that I never wanted my children to feel his absence. She told me that I needed a mindset change and if I didn’t I was heading down the road of burnout, stress, and debt. She told me that she tried to be both parents. She tried to love her children times two and she also purchased twice the number of gifts for Christmas and birthdays because she thought that it was important that even if her children didn’t have both parents that they had the same number of presents as if they had both parents. However, those actions that left her worn out and financially drained. She told me she learned that she didn’t have to be the mom and the dad and the provider of extra gifts. She said the most important thing was to be the best mother to her children that she could be.
After that conversation, I realized that I needed to start working on freeing myself from the single mom guilt that I carried. My children are infants right now, but I know that I’m going to have to continuously remind myself of these tips in the future as they get older. If you are in the position now where you are faced with a holiday season that causes you stress and anxiety then I want to tell you that you aren’t letting your children down and you are not a failure if you can’t provide them expensive or a large number of gifts. You can still give your children an amazing Christmas, but you will need to liberate yourself from single mom guilt. Establish a Christmas savings plan now that will allow you to sleep a little easier because you know that you are doing the best things financially for your family. Check out the steps below.
Step 1: Understand what makes you a phenomenal mom
More stuff doesn’t equate to better parenting. We have all seen or heard those stories where parents try to buy the love of their child only to have the child grow up with issues. Kids don’t crave the stuff. They crave the time. Love is spelled TIME. Therefore, if you understand that your children want you more than they want new stuff, then you must change the way feel about yourself and change how you think about motherhood.
Truth: You are not a failure because your Christmas tree isn’t overflowing with gifts.
Focus on the things that matter: the love that you have for your children, and the person that your child is becoming. Are you raising healthy, happy, kind, and God fearing children?
Create your own reality. Avoid comparing yourself to other moms. You have to create your vision and reality for your children. Besides, you don’t know how the other mom is doing financially or emotionally. People only show you the positive highlights of their lives and not the reality. If you think that you are the only one who is worried about the holidays, then you are wrong. According to the Mayo Clinic, the holiday season brings stress and depression for many people – single, married, parents, no children, etc. Therefore, adopt healthy habits and positive thoughts to create a season that brings joy, happiness, and positive new memories.
Give yourself grace when you fall short of your own standards. We all have an ideal vision for what we want in life, but it doesn’t always happen. When things don’t work out as planned, then get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Encourage and remind yourself that you are a phenomenal mom.
Surround yourself with gratitude. This will help you to fill yourself with the amazing things that you are doing as a mom. Remember, what you focus on expands, therefore focus on what you are doing that is phenomenal, and create a vision for what you want in the future. Then thank God for what He has already done and thank Him in advance for what He is doing in the future.
Step 2: Create your Christmas Gift Savings Plan.
Once you have adopted the right mindset, the next step is to create your Christmas Savings plan.
START PLANNING FOR CHRISTMAS EARLY.
Christmas comes on the same day every year. When you create your annual budget, then identify how much you plan to spend and then add it to your budget. The best way to do this is to save monthly towards your goal in a separate savings account like SmartyPig or Capital One 360. These are great places to save your money and reduce the likelihood of spending on other items. Also, if you know that you will receive a windfall such as a tax refund or bonus, then think about whether you want to use that money to cover holiday costs. If you decide to use some of these funds, then deposit it in in a separate savings account like SmartyPig or Capital One 360. The key is not going into debt to pay for Christmas.
CREATE A CHRISTMAS BUDGET.
It’s not always possible or practical to start early. If you haven’t then don’t worry, because you can always start where you are. Whether you started early or not, you still need to determine your Christmas budget.
- Identify how much you can afford. Look at all of your anticipated monthly expenses and determine how much you money you expect to have left over that you can allocate towards holiday spending. You may even need to reallocate money from a non-essential category like dining out to cover your anticipated holiday costs.
- Think about all of the costs associated with the holiday season. When you think about your budget, you need to think about gifts, travel, in-home entertaining, and events that you plan to attend. Take the time to really think through the entertainment piece of the holiday expenses, because that will determine how much money you have left for gift buying.
- Identify the people on your gift list. Make a list of all of the people that you need to shop for and then once you’re finished, reassess whether you need to shop for each person (BTW: Get your gift buying tracker here). Consider ways to reduce the number of people on your list by suggesting to family and friends that you only shop for the kids and then do a Secret Santa for the adults. Parents and grandparents may be non-negotiable, but consider limiting the number of friends, co-workers, and extended family members who receive gifts.
- Develop a budget for each person. Once you determine for whom you are shopping, you need to establish a budget for each person based on your relationship with them and their desires. The value they will get from the gift is not necessarily dependent on the amount you spend; therefore the budgets do not have to be equal. Also, if you tend to buy items for yourself, then be sure to include your spending so you have a more realistic budget.
- Develop a budget for other holiday expenses. Once you know how much you plan to spend in gifts, then create a budget for the costs associated for anything else related to the holiday – entertaining, events, travel, hair, nails, etc. The total for gifts and other holiday expenses should equal the amount that you can afford to spend.
- Just because you can afford it, doesn’t mean you have to spend. Remember, even if you can afford a certain amount, you can still choose to not spend that much. Spend based on what you can afford and also according to your family’s goals.
Download your copy of the Christmas Gift Savings Plan to help you plan your holiday purchases.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FOR MY PLAN?
Reassess your spending. The key is to avoid using credit cards to fund the holiday shopping. If you don’t have enough then see if you can remove someone from your gift list, reduce your commitments for entertaining, or even cut back on some of your normal non-essential spending.
Look for ways to increase income. If you have a talent, then start looking at how to monetize your talents. Explore opportunities for a seasonal job or freelance work.
Sell items that you no longer need. Clean out the clutter and sell the stuff that you or your children no longer need. You can sell items on Facebook through a Buy and Sell Group, a resell store, a yard sale, Once Upon a Child, or swap with another mom. Side note: don’t limit yourself to only selling your unwanted items. Be open to giving some of it away and being a blessing to another person.
Look for ways to offset the cost to reduce your cash outflow. All of your spending doesn’t have to be cash. There are sites that pay you back for shopping, so if you are going to shop online, then shop through a site like Ebates. Also, check out your local grocery store to see if you can earn rewards points of fuel perks for purchasing gift cards.
Step 3: Making the best buying decisions
BUY YOUR CHILDREN A MIX OF NEW AND USED
When you incorporate used clothes, your money will go further. You can use the savings to buy bigger ticket items, more lower price items, or allocate the savings to fund a financial goal. If you are considering used then, check out:
- Facebook buy and sell group in your area
- Resale stores
- Craig’s list. This is for the brave, but make sure that when you are buying from an individual you use common sense and practice safety. For example, meet up at a local police station to purchase your items.
- Yard sales
- Estate sales
- Once Upon a Child
- Hosting or attending a Mom Swap where you get a group of moms together and swap items
- Mom2Mom sales such as mom2momlist.com and thebigredwagon.com
MAKE SURE YOUR SPENDING IS ALIGNED WITH YOUR FAMILY’S GOALS.
The holiday time is a time for fun, family, and celebration, but you must do so while still staying focused on your long-term family goals. Here are some tips to help you to stay on track.
- Is there something else that you can do with the money? Even though you created your holiday budget, if you believe that there is a better use for that money, then it is ok to re-evaluate the spending.
- Will this purchase bring me closer to or further away from my goals? This is a good question to ask if you are wondering about using your credit card to make unbudgeted purchases. The key is to avoid accumulating debt. Using cash will help you to avoid overspending, because if you don’t have the cash, then you can’t buy it.
- Beware of store credit card deals. Store credit cards are dangerous because of the stores lure you in with promises of immediate savings on your purchase. I would avoid signing up for a store credit card because most people end up paying more in interest than what they end up saving when they sign up for the card. I’ve successfully used a store credit card as a zero percent interest loan, but the second time I signed up for one to do the zero percent loan deal, I struggled to remember the due date, forgot to set up automatic payments, and constantly missed my payments. Honestly, it really isn’t worth it.
Step 4: Use the Holidays to Educate Your Children About Money
Communicate with your children about budgets and spending within their means. Let them know if they want something that is out of your budget. Try to avoid blanket “no” or “because I said so responses.” Your children will be more receptive and better stewards of their own money if you talk to them about your financial reality. The more upfront you are the better. They might not like it, but at least they will understand.
Give them a budget. Consider giving them part of their holiday gift in cash, if they are old enough, and then take them to the after Christmas sales. Let them know that once the money is gone, then it is gone so spend wisely. Alternatively, if they want something that costs more, then they must contribute their own funds to the item. This will help them to learn that they have to make good decisions with their money.
Consider allocating cash gifts from family and friends to a college savings account. Then explain to your children about how you are using that money to pay for their college. Talk to them about investing early.
Involve your children in the goal-setting and Christmas budgeting process. Ask them what goals they want to work towards and how they can make good decisions during the holidays to help the family achieve their goals. Remember, that financially literacy is not taught in the home so look for opportunities to help educate your children about the value of money.
Step 5: Remember the reason for the season
Focus on Jesus
Consider ways to incorporate service into your holiday season. Use this as a way to teach your children about serving others. Jesus was the ultimate servant, so learning how to serve helps you to become more like Jesus.
- Donate items that you no longer need to a nonprofit like the Salvation Army
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen
- Participate in a giving tree service like Adopt a Family or Adopt a Child
- Ask your church how you can serve
FIND OTHER WAYS TO MAKE THE SEASON SPECIAL
Think experiences instead of gifts.
Do you remember what you received for Christmas last year or the year before? Chances are the answer is no, so instead of more gifts, spend time with your children. Think about it this way, if you need to work extra hours or a second job to get that must-have toy, would your children want time with you or the toy? Psychology Professor Thomas Gilovich, said that experiences provide more provide more enduring value and makes people happier because they are “less likely to measure the value of their experiences by comparing them to those of others.” He also said that people are the sum total of their experiences because they create memories. Gifts, on the other hand only provide excitement for about 6-12 weeks because once you get it you become bored or accustomed to it. This is important because we can take the pressure off of ourselves to find the perfect gift, and it reduces the likelihood of overspending.
CREATE NEW TRADITIONS
Think of other things that you can do with your family to make Christmas special.
- Buy the tree within a few days of Christmas and decorating the tree on Christmas Eve. This is a tradition that saves money because if you shop for a tree on Christmas Eve or 1-2 days before then you can buy a tree for less or you may even get it for free.
- Christmas movie marathon. I love A Christmas Story. Consider watching that movie and a few others to be festive.
- Outdoor ice skating
- Bake cookies for Santa
- Go to church on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve
- Listen to the holiday carols
There are a number of things that you can do to have fun and avoid spending a lot of money.
You don’t have to deprive your family of a fun, amazing holiday experience. The key is making sure that you come up with a plan to prevent overspending and identifying what you plan to do to make the holidays special. Stress and depression for finances are prevalent during the holidays, but that doesn’t have to be your reality. In Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover he says, that “You must live like no one else so you can live like no one else.” Make the adjustments now, because your future and your children’s future matters. Focus on the vision for your family’s life and what financial freedom will mean to you. Your family is worth it.
Leave a comment in the Phenomenal Moms Facebook Group to let me know how this helps you!
Aisha Taylor is a single mom of twins, personal financial coach, work from home entrepreneur, and #1 Amazon Best Selling Author of the book “5+5 FNPhenomenal Ways to Save $100 This Week Without Killing Your Lifestyle.” Aisha has been featured in ESSENCE, Jet Magazine, and Black Enterprise. She is also the Founder of FNPhenomenal (Frugal –n- Phenomenal), a movement designed to help single moms transform their finances, enjoy life, and stop living from paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s time for you to be Financially Phenomenal!