Managing Holiday Expectations

This will no doubt be a very emotionally difficult holiday season, and most everyone will not be able to afford to buy whatever they did last year.

Holidays are often felt as celebrations requiring plenty of food, decorations and presents to make it special and fun. From Thanksgiving through Christmas stores will be providing tons of temptations with sales and kids doing their usual "PLEASE, can I have that?" The guilt from whatever you feel you have not gotten for your child (time with you, having more fun with them, past items you couldn't buy) may propel you further to desire buying more than you can afford.

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Many of you will have shielded your child from what is happening in today's financial world in an attempt not to worry them, so your children might be shocked and very disappointed if the holidays are not like every other year. What can you do to deal with this unrealistic expectation? How you can assure them that the holidays will stay the same for your family?

1. Talk about it. When your kids don't know anything they cannot realign their expectations. You can tell them without terrifying them, and when you don't tell them you also are keeping the reality of it from yourself. Have a family pow-wow and discuss the changing economy, the impact on all families and that it means you too will be tightening your belt.

2. Agree on a family budget.  Set amounts of money to be spent ahead of any shopping. Have a plan, get out the cash and go without any credit card to the store.  This is a good year to get gifts that are needed rather than frivolous.  Look over what the kids will need in the next 6 months and choose from that.  This way there is a gift but you aren't spending any extra money you wouldn't spend anyway. 

3. Shop when well rested, feeling decently and bring support. When you are tired, down or guilty you will spend more. Having a spouse or friend who has agreed to keep you in line will help you stick to the plan.

4. Focus on the "magic". The magical feeling of holidays do not come from lots of toys. It comes from specific childhood memories that you recreate for your own kids... something from your history that you make a tradition. Think back... perhaps its baking a special dessert together, putting up tree lights or singing Christmas carols.

5. Manage your expectations.  Expectations have a lot to do with priorities.  If you really think about it you will realize that you care more about relationships than you do about material stuff. Holiday happiness has more to do with feeling close to those you love. If everyone wrote a letter saying how they felt about each other (monetarily inexpensive, but emotionally costly) it would likely feel a whole lot better to read than ripping open the paper of yet another box.

Rethink what matters most to you and make the effort toward those that do.

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