Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 38 - Navigating the Holidays

November 21, 2010

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, I am excited by the thought of the holiday season ahead.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I had initially budget to spend $1,000 on Christmas expenses this year - a number which seems rather absurd to me now given my financial situation.  And since I have already spent what I had saved for Christmas so far on extra debt payments, I need a new game plan.  There are really two issues at play this holiday season: 1) Gift-Buying and 2) Travel Expenses.

As far as Thanksgiving, Mike and I bought our tickets long ago and for a good price.  Plus the only gifts we expect to buy are for the people we stay with as a thank you. Other than that, our remaining expenses should be food.  We are fairly confident that we will be able to stay within our November budget barring any unforeseen emergencies.

Christmas is a bit more complicated.  As far as presents, I am considering a gift truce with everyone over the age of 18.  My family has a lot going on this year and I think that presents for the adults are not a necessity.  As far as travel, Mike decided to fly home to see his family after we were able to scrounge up flight credits and credit card points to pay for his flight.  As for me, I am contemplating a drive home.  Given that my current job allows me the flexibility to work from pretty much anywhere, it would be easy for me to go home for a couple of weeks.  In addition, I plan on bringing my dog so that eliminates the cost of a dog sitter.  The problem? I estimate the total cost of driving home to be about $600 round trip including hotels and gas.  Given that this is going to be my first Christmas without my dad and the thought of spending it at home by myself doesn't appeal to me too much, is the cost of my trip justified?  When do you allow yourself to think outside of the financial box when making spending decisions?

I think people too often have a tendency to justify their spending with some kind of emotional reasoning - myself included.  But where do you draw the line when deciding between the logical and emotional sides of a spending argument?  If I were to think with solely a financial mind, I would probably decide not to go home since that $600 could be used to pay off debt faster.  If I think about it from an emotional standpoint, I would most likely decide to go home.  Holidays and family have always been important to me.

Although I try, I am not capable of deciding solely based on my budget and bank statements.  But maybe that is why I am still in debt.  I do think that there has got be a happy medium when these types of decisions come along.  But I haven't figured out what it is yet.

Stay tuned,
Sarah
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