Now that the SAG strike is officially over, many actors are now focused on recovering from the financial hit they may have experienced over the past few months.
Even with auditions and jobs slowly starting to come back, the holidays can easily become a time of financial stress as spending starts to rise.
I’m a sucker for the holidays. I revel in the celebrations, the excess, the festive atmosphere from September through January.
This article is all about helping you navigate your finances during this season of joy without the typical holiday budgeting restrictions.
Even if you’re feeling strapped for cash right now, we’ll explore how to use your money to maximize holiday joy in December and minimize surprises in your bank account come January 1st.
Shifting Your Perspective on Planning
Before we move into the three steps to create a holiday money plan, let’s begin by reshaping your approach to planning.
Many people view planning as a binary choice between restriction and indulgence, either cutting back or going all out. However, there’s a middle ground—a space where you can spend freely while being conscious of your choices. It’s about embracing awareness and forward-thinking without the need for strict budgeting.
Rather than blindly avoiding financial planning because you think it will take away the fun of the holidays, see it as making conscious decisions about how you spend without the need for restraint.
Remember, financial planning decreases your money anxiety. With the money anxiety you may be feeling emerging from the 118-day strike, prioritizing making a holiday money plan is one of the best gifts you can give your art this season.
Let’s dive into a practical example: holiday decorations. Picture yourself strolling through Target, captivated by the festive displays. Without a holiday money plan, you might impulsively accumulate $200 worth of candles, mugs and decorations throughout the season, only to face guilt and surprise in January.
Instead, proactively decide on how much you desire to spend on these impulsive Target trips. Embrace the joy of planning, allocate specific shopping days, and give yourself permission to enjoy the process.
If you’re going to spend the $200 at Target anyway, would you rather feel guilty and surprised about it in January, or enjoy a planned shopping spree guilt-free that fits alongside your money goals? That is what this article is going to help you to do.
Step 1: Create Your Ideal List
Let’s get tactical.
List the people you’ll buy gifts for, decoration plans, baking supplies, events, travel, food for gatherings, etc., as well as the dollar amount you would ideally spend on each of these things. This is not about cutting back; it’s about identifying what would bring you joy if money were no object.
Also, think about the big sales that happen around this time and the money you’d desire to spend on yourself during these times.
Prepare for the shopping extravaganza by creating a wishlist in advance. Include items you’ve been eyeing and gifts from your ideal plan. When Black Friday deals flood your inbox or social media, you’re ready.
It’s not impulsive buying; it’s strategic, leveraging sales for things you already wanted.
At the end of the exercise, you will have a total dollar amount that reflects your ideal holiday spending for the year.
Step 2: Reflect and Adjust
What comes up when you look at that total number from Step 1?
Take a moment to sit with this number. How does it make you feel? Is it aligned with your expectations? Does it trigger thoughts of cutting back? Do you have access to this amount in your bank accounts? Does it allow you to stay on track with your money goals?
If you feel giddy and excited about this number, you have it in the bank and it doesn’t derail your goals, amazing! Move forward in the holiday season with that number in mind.
If not, this is where adjustment comes into play.
Begin by journaling about how you want to feel during the holidays. Imagine the ideal holiday season, capturing the emotions and experiences you desire.
Extend your journaling to envision how you want to feel after the holiday season, especially in mid-January. What do you want to see in your bank accounts, and what do you wish to avoid? Identify the activities that bring you the most joy during the holidays, and list your top priorities.
Now you can go back to your list with your visions and priorities in mind to make adjustments. Decide on a number that gives you a grounded excited feeling in both enjoying the holidays now and liking what you see in the bank in January.
Step 3: Schedule Your Money Date Check-Ins
Now that you have your holiday money plan outlined, it’s time to talk about implementing it.
Having a plan only matters if you set up a foundation to follow through with it. The good thing about this plan is it’s not grounded in restriction, so you hopefully will not automatically go into avoidance thinking about your plan as the holidays descend upon us.
It’s a good idea to plan weekly money dates throughout November and December where you check in on your money, what you’ve spent, if you’re in alignment with your holiday priorities and also check in to make sure you’re enjoying how you’re spending this money.
Schedule these money dates into your calendar now and make sure to make them a fun moment!
Take yourself out to a coffee shop for a gingerbread latte (with secure Wi-Fi of course) or play a winter jazz ambiance video on YouTube while you sip a glass of wine with your twinkle lights on.
Making these dates something you look forward to will make your money plan feel exciting, rather than a burden.
Enjoy Your Holidays Guilt-free
Planning for the holidays doesn’t have to have a vibe of deprivation. Instead, it’s about being forward-thinking, deciding how much you want to spend and relishing the joy without guilt.
This holiday season, left’s rewrite the narrative.
By using these three steps to create a holiday money plan, you can savor the festivities while also being mindful of your financial priorities after this months-long strike.
This plan will not only help you navigate the season with confidence but also ensure that you stay true to your financial goals.
Take the time to reflect on what truly matters to you during the holidays, and let that guide your spending decisions.
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Brooke Tyler Benson, Money Coach + AEA Actor, is the founder of Not Starving Artists. She is bringing financial education and empowerment to creatives to create a new generation of wealthy artists living lives of luxury and purpose (no budgeting or bi-weekly paycheck required). After graduating with a BFA in Acting, it became her mission to destroy the “starving artist” trope once and for all. She is your financial cheerleader, bringing you accessible money education and coaching specifically for creative freelancers and small business owners.