How Singles Avoid Holidays Bankruptcy
Holidays are a precious time for everyone: holiday travel, gifts, food, drink, and party clothes can all cost even the frugaliest of people money. But December can be especially difficult financially for single people, says Carey Purcell in the Washington Post . This is largely due to the fact that single people tend to bear their living expenses alone rather than sharing them with a partner, which obviously reduces their disposable income while on vacation. But as Purcell points out, it also has different expectations for single people and people with partners.
For example, if you are not married, you may be expected to go to your siblings or parents’ home, not themselves. Couples with children have an added bonus in that they can argue that family travel is too expensive or difficult, and thus shift this burden of time and money onto their single family members.
So, not every person has a low income, and not every partner has a high income (although at the macro level this is somewhat true; Purcell points out that on average single people earn less than married people and consider themselves to be less well off financially. ). But there are ways to protect your wallet if you’re single and don’t want to use your January grocery budget to get through December. For some ideas on how to enjoy the season but stay in the background, I reached out to Bella DePaulo, author of Highlighted : How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored and Still Live Happily Ever After.
Think Unity, Not Gifts
“For people who live far away from each other, instead of buying gifts, invest in a fund that can be used to pay for the travel expenses of the person who is traveling,” she said via email. If the goal is to bring the whole family together, but that goal places a disproportionate burden on the traveler, perhaps the plane ticket / rental car could be split up among family members instead of gifts.
Give a gift for a family, not a person
A lone colleague at Lifehacker revealed how many gifts she gives to her brother and sister and the family of a brother or sister, and she gave about twice as many gifts as she received. (This may in part be due to the fact that couples tend to give gifts as one whole because they have two families to give gifts to.)
Gift exchange is not about keeping an account, but if you are trying to meet your budget, consider giving one gift per family: something expendable or something that the whole family will love. Or limit the exchange of gifts to children only.
Separate hosting responsibilities
If you’ve wanted to host your own holiday parties but have been delayed due to expenses, try hosting a party with you. You and your buddy can split the cost of booze and canapés and double your potential new friends in one fell swoop. At the very least, you can turn your annual Christmas party into a banquet or BYOB to reduce your chances of a financial hangover.
Chip equally, not evenly
Let’s say you’re a single person with two married siblings and you all would like to make a great gift for mom and dad this holiday season. Instead of dividing the gift into three parts, divide it into five parts — divide the value of the gift among the working adults in each household. Thus, a single brother or sister does not pay the same amount as his sisters, who share their expenses with their spouses and seem to have a little extra scratches. (Naturally, your experience may vary depending on your family’s circumstances – if a single brother is a hedge fund manager and married siblings are teachers, your calculation will change.)
Give (free) experiences instead of things
Dr. DePaulo suggests organizing free or low-cost activities for your family during the holidays: “For example, I live near a seal sanctuary. Walking there annually can be a good tradition and it doesn’t cost anything. I bet there are many (though perhaps not all) places like this. ” I love keeping an eye on free museum days or free concert tickets and getting them as gifts – they cost me nothing but effort, and yet allow me to spend time with family and friends doing something special. I am still nominally the “master”. (I treat you to hot chocolate.)
Ask everyone to come to you
If you don’t want to travel, you can offer to host, but this obviously comes with your own financial obligations – and you may find that the plane ticket will be cheaper than champagne and dinner for everyone during the celebration. Ultimately, it is probably best to talk frankly with those close to you about what everyone can and cannot afford so that no one feels overly burdened. In the end, you may find that you prefer to travel, even if it costs you a little more: if you don’t check your bag, you won’t be able to bring too many gifts.