Keeping Holiday Budgeting Merry and Bright: Ideas From Financial Expert Nicole Lapin


Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Nicole Lapin to gather her insights on how to approach holiday budgeting from a financial perspective. While this may be the most wonderful time of the year, it is common to feel some financial stress from paying for all of this joy. Nicole shared some of her tips to help moms stay merry and bright all season long.

1. Make a list, check it twice. (If it’s good enough for Santa, it’s good enough for us!)

Ever notice how every year it seems you’ve forgotten to buy for someone? Your child’s art teacher, choir director, bus driver, the person that covered for you a work, somehow even with all of your early season planning one of these people were overlooked. Or all of a sudden every organization you love is asking for you to give money this season. Now you’re scrambling to give them something to say thanks without breaking the bank.

  • The best way to avoid this is to make a list early. Decide everyone that you/your family feel is important to purchase a gift for this year with a budget for each person as well.  Include any organizations that you want to donate to such as church, volunteer fire departments, saving the animals, etc. Make your list and check it twice. Sticking with this original budget for gifts will help to make sure you do not overspend as the holidays get closer.

2. Giving cash is as cool as Frosty!

Want a super easy way to stay on budget during the holidays? Give cash. When you decide how much you want to spend on someone and give cash, you are on budget 100%. When you set a budget but then find a gift that would be perfect for that person, you tend to spend whatever the price tag says.

Giving cash, gift certificates, or pre-loaded gift cards is a great way to let someone purchase exactly what they want while still feeling remembered. Keeping on a budget will keep you feeling merry and bright too.

3. Ways to get kids involved with budgeting. Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg… 

One great idea to help older children understand the value of budgeting this time of year is to have them help design their own plan of gift giving. Make sure to talk about what they would like to give each person as well as how much they would like to spend on each gift as well. Lead by example with your own plan, teach them how this can be easy or hard for you.

While talking with your kids about who they want to give gifts to, it is important to talk about where the money to fund these gifts is coming from. We love them, but we’re not ATMs. Help your child understand that we work for the money to purchase anything (from mortgages to things in gift wrap) and money doesn’t just appear.

  • If they do not have enough in their piggy bank to cover their plan, figure out ways they can earn this money. Maybe you design a list of extra chores or special ways they can help for additional payouts. (How much is it worth to have them clean off your car on a snowy morning or vacuum the couches before family comes over?)
  • Another idea is to explain how lending works. Handing over $20 while they leave for the mall with the promise of, “Please, I’ll pay you back” pretty much means that money is gone. (And more than likely they’ll ask again soon!) Taking the time to explain how lending really works or what interest is will help your child gain a better understanding of how borrowing really works. Use simple math with achievable percentages of interest to demonstrate that they can borrow small amounts of money along with the expectation that they will pay you back with interest. All of sudden those $20 payouts start costing $22 or $25 will be teaching your little one a valuable lesson while helping to fund mommy’s latte love too!

What to avoid this season so you’re not a Grinch

The first suggestion is to end the competitive gift-giving early this year. If you’ve been caught in years-long competition for who can give the best gift each year, you know how this can quickly break the bank. Trying to out-gift means you need deep pockets to find that unicorn of a present. Stop the pressure by speaking with your “competitor” early this year. Talk about loving the extraordinary gifts in the past and be honest about wanting a clean slate for a more simple gift exchange this year.  Or, plan a collaborative gift with your “competitor” so you both receive equal credit for your amazing gift while also sharing the same costs.

The second suggestion is to avoid the buildup of IOU’s. Even while creating a gift-giving budget, you may find you overspent by the end of the holidays because of the extra parties, traveling, and unforeseen expenses. If someone covers the cost of a party or dinner with the expectation that you will repay them, do this as soon as possible. Getting this expense paid right away will take away the lingering feeling of outstanding IOU’s as well as to help keep things in perspective financially week by week this season.

It’s beginning to look a lot like budgeting! (Just as catchy as the original, right?)  Hoping all of these tips will help you deck the halls while feeling merry into the new year! Big thanks to Nicole for speaking with me!

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When she's not reading a thriller or crocheting something new, Amanda loves exploring all of the incredible options in the DMV area with her (almost as tall as her) little one. Her desire to continue learning more about young children and their families pushed her to become Doc Holliday, receiving her doctorate in Infant & Early Childhood Development specializing in Infant Mental Health and Developmental Disorders. Years of working with young children and prenatal/postnatal mamas have given her hours of material that she is excited to share in her blog posts. (She had her half-Jamaican son born during a blizzard and traveled to the hospital in Uber. Just one of the fun stories she has to tell!)