Oh, Christmas time. ‘Tis the season for mulled wine, novelty jumpers, Quality Street, last minute shopping and… disagreements?
Yep, the combination of a) the stress of spending money we don’t have, b) family logistics and c) workloads (AKA cramming four weeks of work into two) can make the last month of the year one of the most stressful for many.
And with the British Association of Anger Management promoting their ‘Keep your cool this Christmas’ campaign, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss exactly why we get in such a tizzy. Unfortunately, we can’t get to the bottom of why your Aunt Mildred doesn’t speak to Great Uncle Bert, but we might be able to help when it comes to keeping your cool amidst a money discussion…
So how can we keep our emotions in check when discussing the ‘m’ word this Christmas?
Here are a few tips to get started:
1) Remember, there’s no mirror-image style when it comes to finances
We all have our own opinions when it comes to money. This was fine when we had no one to disagree with or answer to. But when we have a partner, especially one who may have different approaches to money, compromise is key. Otherwise known as ‘financial interdependency’, it’s all about addressing the issue of money together.
They might have forked out £100 on presents for each parent in the past, but if you’re used to spending £20, perhaps it’s time to meet in the middle – or work out together what you can truly afford.
2) Take out the guess work
Instead of mentally totting up how much you’ve spent on family members, friends and each other, or making blanket statements like “you spent a shed load of money on your side of the family” and “you’ve frittered away cash we don’t have”, write out a detailed budgeting plan – ideally before you start spending. This’ll help avoid pointing fingers and playing the blame game.
This Christmas, why not set some time aside to hit the shops together? You’ll be amazed at how handpicking presents together can make them more enjoyable to give on Christmas morning.
3) No more secrets
Secretly hiding big-ticket purchases, or any kind of money secret regarding savings or debt, can be the biggest barrier to an open and honest relationship. And they always have a way of coming out when we least expect them to – when the other half goes to get the hoover out and a Mulberry handbag lands on their head, for example. Be honest from the get-go and avoid hiding things in the closet – in both senses.
4) Put things into perspective
When we’re in the midst of a financial row, it can be hard to put things into perspective – and sometimes the stress can cause us to forget all the positive elements of our relationships. Take a step back, breathe, and remember this is supposed to be a happy month.
5) Get your timings right
Whether it’s your first Christmas together or your twentieth, it’s never too late to have that money talk. But on the escalator in Debenhams or the minute a hefty credit card bill lands on your doormat are probably not the timeliest of moments.
Set some planned time aside to have a post-Christmas financial roundup – how did your budgeting work out this year, and are there ways you could improve your spending style for Christmas 2017? Addressing any issues sensibly and calmly before they erupt into an argument is the way to do it. And if it goes well, this ‘money date night’ could become a monthly occurrence throughout the New Year.
So, with planning and organisation to rival the setup Santa has with his elves, combined with open communication about your finances, you can make sure you get back to focusing on all the good things synonymous with Christmas: family games, the Strictly special, copious amounts of food and putting your feet up – all washed down with an obligatory glass of sherry. Merry Christmas!
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