Three Steps to Spend and Stress Less on Last Minute Gifts

It’s just about the eleventh hour and you’re probably not alone if you haven’t 21 Days of TSF FINANCIALcompleted your holiday shopping, mailing, wrapping and other essentials. But before you turn into a Scrooge, take a breath, step back and reassess what your end goal truly is. After making your initial list and spending plan (check out this post if you still need to accomplish this critical step), try following these simple steps to help you regroup and save on last minute gift-giving:

Step One: Check your gift list twice! Maybe your list was limited to immediate family and close friends. Or maybe it included extended family, shipmates, neighbors, your gardener and pet groomer. While you can check off the names of those you’ve already bought gifts for, you may want to get creative with those that are left. Start by prioritizing. (Your mom’s gift probably takes precedence over the pet groomer.) Then, list a few gift options for each person and their estimated prices. Finally, note who you may be able to eliminate from your list this year, and reassure yourself that it’s okay not to give a material gift to everyone! If you feel obligated and have available funds (after following step two), then go for it. But if you can’t make the extra purchases comfortably, consider reassessing or forgoing that gift this year. Gifts from the heart can mean just as much (see step three!).

Step Two: Determine how much of your holiday funds are still available. While the weather outside may be frightful, re-evaluating your budget adherence may also seem less than delightful. Be that as it may, taking this step is a must. You may find that you have more names on your list than you have cash on-hand, or just the opposite. Either way, gift-giving shouldn’t cause undue financial strain. Credit cards should be used with discretion and include a plan to readily pay off newly accrued holiday debt. Check out to help you determine a feasible payoff plan before you swipe.

Step Three: Let the giving begin! With your list from step one and your budget from step two, you’re ready to make mindful choices for your remaining gifts. Perhaps you still have a bigger gift to purchase that may monopolize most of your available funds. If that gift is your priority, select from your listed less-pricey alternatives for others. Or, in the spirit of the season, make your gifts! A great way to minimize spending and maximize quality time is to involve a few people in your gift-making. Consider asking a few of the people left on your list to join you for a couple hours to make photo frames for loved ones with a recent photo in them. By involving those who are left on your list in the process of making gifts for others, you’re giving them the gift of presence—which is more valuable than a material present.

Rather than stressing about last minute spending, take a deep breath and reconnect with Meaning—one of the Principles of Resilience—this holiday season. No matter what holidays you observe or how you celebrate them, let this season be about connection rather than commercialization.

For more tips on creative gift-giving, check out this NavyNavStress post. To help you stay financially fit this holiday season (and all year round), visit your local Fleet and Family Support Center or explore the resources listed in this Military OneSource article.

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 NavyNavStress and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor.

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