Your first holiday season as a divorcee can be a rough one. From Halloween through Valentine’s Day, it might feel like you’re being bombarded with reminders that your life doesn’t look like what it used to, and that can be incredibly challenging. To make things more complicated, your financial life likely looks a lot different than it ever did before.
You may be living in your same home, or maybe you’ve relocated and downsized. You might be working the same job you were before, or maybe you had to re-enter the working world to help support yourself and your family as a newly single mom. Whatever your situation may be, know that the holidays don’t have to be as financially stressful as you might think.
Outlining a Holiday Budget
Your first step will be to outline a holiday budget. For a frame of reference, it might be helpful to jot down what you and your ex-partner spent money on in previous years. A few things to remember are:
- Travel to and from visiting family
- Dinners out with loved ones
- Work gift expenses (or donations)
- Gifts for family, friends, and your kids
- Decorating (if you had lights hung by a professional, etc.)
- Food for holiday parties
Knowing what you spent in the past can help you form a ballpark of what you might spend this season, and you’ll be able to get a better idea of what’s realistic and what expenses might need to be trimmed back.
What Traditions Are Sticking Around?
Your holiday budget will obviously be a little bit different this year, and one way you can help to determine what’s going to change is to think about things in terms of traditions. What traditions are going to stick around? Where does it make sense to lean into a new tradition that’s fun for your family?
For example, if you always purchased tickets to a holiday show for you, your kids, and your ex-partner, you may need to have a conversation about whether that’s going to happen this year, who’s going to take the kids, or whether you want to skip it altogether. Maybe instead of the holiday show, you decide to take your kids to a different event instead to start a new tradition.
Another example that often can cause added financial stress is the cost of visiting family. This is especially true if your family lives out of state, and you traditionally shouldered the expense of holiday visits as a unit with your ex-partner. Now you may feel stuck with the hefty cost of visiting loved ones, but feel unable to spring for the expense by yourself. Rethinking these traditions and determining what’s going to work for you and your family in this new season of life is key. For example, if you’re worried about affording holiday travel by yourself for you and your kids, consider requesting that family members come to visit you – or cut back in another holiday-related expense area (like gifts for family members) in exchange for being able to afford the trip.
How Can You Make Things Easier On Yourself and Your Family?
It might feel like keeping everything the same around the holidays is the best way to provide a sense of consistency and happiness for your kids. However, this isn’t always the case. If you’re feeling financially and emotionally overwhelmed right now, reevaluating some traditional expenses and replacing them with cost-effective but valuable experiences may make more sense.
For example, expensive dinners out with loved ones, or extravagant family vacations over holiday break may have been the status quo in the past. But a cozy board game night with family and friends, or a stay-cation packed with fun family activities for you and your kids may serve as better memory-makers while you (and your finances) are undergoing this transition.
On the flip side, you may consider taking on additional expenses in place of past holiday-related costs that simplify things for you and your family around the holidays. Maybe instead of a mountain of gifts for the kids under the tree, you stick to 2-3 things they really want or need and then hire someone to help you walk the dog and keep the house clean while you balance full-time work with holiday programs, plays, and end-of-semester recitals that crop up. Being present is often the biggest present we can give, and if that means outsourcing tasks that will impact your ability to be with family this season – go for it.
Determining the best way to make life merry and bright for you and your family this year is something that only you can do – but it’s well worth the time spent.
Don’t Forget Self Care
This season may be particularly hard for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sometimes the best thing you can invest in this holiday season is yourself. Don’t forget to take care of you in any way you need to. That might mean scheduling a night with your friends to bake your family’s traditional Christmas cookies and catch up.
It might mean booking an appointment with a counselor or therapist to talk through what you’re feeling this season. Whatever you need to feel confident and cared for should be somewhere toward the top of your to-do list – even if it feels like there are a million other things vying for your attention right now.
And if you need help with your holiday (or post-holiday) finances – feel free to reach out. I’m here to help provide an objective opinion and guidance as you go through this new season of life.