Holidays are stressful times with six weeks of excess, taxed budgets, and too much to do. If you’re separated or divorced, be careful of setting completely unrealistic expectations. These tips below have been excerpted from Surviving Separation and Divorce by Loriann Oberlin, MS.
Your tree isn’t the only item that needs to be trimmed when you’re separated. Chances are you can free up some extra money by making Hanukkah and the holiday season more affordable. If conserving finances isn’t a good enough reason, think of your sanity. Since you’ve already got enough stress, here are ways to simplify the holidays:
1. Make homemade gifts for some relatives, friends, and teachers. Something as simple as homemade bread or cookies can be wrapped with festive ribbon tied around cellophane.
2. Create a grab bag with extended family to cut down on the number of gifts. Ship presents early so that you can mail packages at the lowest rates. Consider gifting the eBook version of books as many people today read on iPads or tablets.
3. Look at all those reward programs you belong to. Airline miles you won’t use can become magazine gifts. LEGO has VIP points that can defray gifts. Cash in any monies you have earned through Upromise.
4. Send virtual greeting cards to those with online access, which today is almost everyone, or use postcards (the stamps cost considerably less). Let your children create a family web page that serves as your holiday newsletter. Send thank you messages the same way.
5. Entertain with potluck dinners or merely coffee and dessert get-togethers.
6. Suggest items that you or your children need to those who ask for gift ideas. Often, relatives and friends want to help by providing toys or clothing that might strain your budget.
7. Settle on one large gift if your children are old enough to understand. For instance, if your kids could use a computer for schoolwork, such a purchase makes sense (and might qualify as a partial tax write-off if you’re self-employed or moonlight from home).
8. Combine giving, especially if you and your estranged spouse have an amicable relationship. No sense both of you buying holiday gifts for your children. Put both names on one set of gifts.
9. Donate with a little creativity. If you’re conserving cash, you can still be generous with gifts of your time or gently used toys, or outgrown clothing to food pantries and social service agencies.
10. Take advantage of after-holiday sales for next year. Why anyone would purchase Christmas lights, garland, artificial trees, cards and wrapping paper at full price is beyond me. All of these items are at least 50 percent off the day after Christmas. Throughout January, prices are slashed even further. The day after other holidays, those decorations or party supplies are on sale as well.
11. Stash away small or token gifts by shopping early. Sometimes your employer or clients gift you freebies that can be set aside for stocking stuffers. Think of the novelty items you find at office supply stores, toy stores, liquidation and going out of business sales. Use frequent shopper discounts or reward points, too.
Loriann Oberlin, MS, LCPC is the author of Surviving Separation and Divorce (Adams Media). Her novel Second Chances, written under pen name Lauren Monroe, also deals with surviving the holidays as a newly separated, single mom.