The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season, Part 1

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. – note

The most wonderful time of the year is almost here. But for some, the holiday season seems to appear as a thief would in the night – suddenly and 131231-N-QL471-200unwelcomed. There are any number of reasons why we have these feelings, some vague and others deeply rooted in our experiences. Nonetheless, when said and done, the holiday season can leave us with cold realities to face: lingering debts piled on from two seasons ago, the thought of budgeting for holiday parties, gift exchanges, family visits, travel, and elaborate meal planning—not to mention the great expectations of loved ones. It can leave any soul feeling a bit materially bankrupt this time of year. Before you give into accepting that it’s ok or unavoidable to accumulate another dollar of unplanned expenses, apply the Principles of Resilience to think strategically and act decisively. Meaningful goals can be your offensive tactics to battle any holiday excess and keep an even keel throughout the stress and excitement.

Thinking Strategically
Strategic thinking involves assessing your views and making purposeful decisions that will lead to success. Let’s consider an 80/20 approach. Think of this as a general principle directing us to put more effort, action and concentration into one critical attribute over another. Using this approach, our holiday focus should be personal relationships (80%) and spending (20%). Although the success we hope to achieve here is financial, we can also achieve peace of mind. The starting point of our holiday budget planning should be a conscious process where we identify what is truly important in the scheme of things. Usually, personal relationships and reflection/meaning are answers at the heart of this search.

This 80/20 idea is simply another way for us to understand and accept what most of us already know and believe –the focus of the holidays is family and togetherness, not extravagant spending.

Acting Decisively
A good plan requires gathering information and acting on it in a sensible manner. In addition to having the mental framework to plan for the holidays, a written analysis of your true financial picture must first be completed. Prepare a budget that clearly identifies your spending limits, debt and savings goals. Be sure to account for any extra holiday income, create a buffer for any unplanned activities, and estimate the cost of materials and postage for cards and gifts. Set realistic goals to exercise controllability, like avoiding additional credit card debt (layaway is a good option here). Step back and evaluate your budget based on the 80/20 approach to help you achieve balance and adjust as necessary.

After the budget is prepared, it should be placed in a highly visible place so that you can closely refer to it during those tempting holiday sales and promotions. Conscious holiday spending can also create an opportunity to save cash and put it toward existing debt or savings– whichever will put you in the most advantageous position. Consult your Command Financial Specialist (CFS), FFSC financial counselor or Military OneSource advisor for help creating a spending plan.

Finally, stay focused on what’s important this season, and take care of yourself! In addition to creating your holiday budget, now is a good time to review and update your Stress Navigation Plan.

Stay tuned for parts two and three of our series, “The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season.”

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