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How Couples Can Plan a Frugal Holiday Without Breaking Up

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This time of year can be festive, magical, and … stressful. If you’re in a relationship, this stress can almost completely overshadow the fun of the holidays. Not only are you expected to buy gifts for each other, but you may also need to travel to visit each other’s families, buy new outfits for these family functions, buy gifts for them … the list goes on and on.

Maybe you and your significant other have already had the frugal holiday talk. You know, the one where you promise not to go overboard on gifts and have a low key holiday. And if you haven’t already had that talk, it’s about time to have it now. But actually acting on this talk can be scary. You can’t help but wonder if you are truly on the same page. What does frugal mean to your significant other? Will he or she be disappointed by the gift you give? The fact is, planning a frugal holiday as a couple is easy to say and hard to do. So how can you plan a frugal holiday together without it ending in a breakup by the new year?

Manage Expectations

Start off by managing each other’s expectations. Why do you need to be frugal? If you haven’t already, now is a great time to tell your partner about the financial situation you are in — no matter what that may look like. What does frugal mean to you? You might think spending $100 on a gift is extravagant while your partner could think that’s a gift on a budget. Talk about a dollar amount that you’re comfortable with and agree not to go over that amount on your gifts.

You should also manage the expectations you have on travel. If one or both of you lives away from your hometown, do you expect to travel together to visit family for the holidays? Talk about it. Find out what kind of schedule and budget works for the two of you. If you’re in a better financial situation than your partner and want to visit your family together, you could offer to foot the bill so your partner can make the trip without fearing the financial effect of it. And finally, talk about what your families expect from you two. Do either of you have siblings? Will they be buying presents for you both? If your partner receives a present from your family unexpectedly, not having a gift to give in return can be deeply embarrassing to him or her. Talk about it so you both know what to expect.

Follow Through

Now that you are on the same page, stay there. Now is not the time to spend more than you agreed on just because you found the perfect gift and it happens to be over budget. Believe it or not, your partner could be sensitive about his or her finances and embarrassed by not being able to reciprocate. You should also keep the lines of communication open throughout the whole holiday season. Did you have a sudden setback on your finances? Let your partner know. The more you talk about these things, the more you both will understand each other’s point of view and can affirm that you’re in this together.

I can’t stress this next point enough — not only should you stick to what you agreed to, but you need to have a good attitude about it. Maybe you bought a plane ticket to visit your partner’s grandparents in another state, but are really wishing you could have used that money for something else. That’s a tough feeling to deal with but stay positive about it so your partner doesn’t feel guilty. Ideally, you’ll both have made compromises for each other so remember that when the feeling of stress settles in. You can always use these budgeting tips for families to help you out.

Get Creative

One of the best things about the holidays is that — no matter what holiday you’re celebrating — the main point is to spend time with your loved ones. It’s not about the money you spend on a gift — it’s about finding a gift that makes your loved ones feel special. Thanks to websites like Etsy, you may even be able to customize a gift for your partner or their family without spending a ton of money. By spending the time to find a gift that really speaks to your loved ones, you’ll go a lot farther than you will by running to the mall and dropping your credit card on a shiny object. So get creative with your gifts to each other so you can save money and make it special.

As stressful as this time of year may be, you and your significant other have the power to make it special on a budget — as long as you keep the lines of communication open and honest. If you do this and are willing to compromise to meet each other’s needs, you’ll soon be celebrating not only this holiday together, but hopefully many more to come.

Image: Ed Yourdon, via Flickr

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