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Caroline Rules

How Can I Make the Holidays Happy on a Budget?

Caroline Manzo puts the real in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her fans relate to the reality star's no-nonsense attitude, focus on family and, above all, abundant common sense. Check back at Glo every Monday as Caroline helps solve your most pressing dilemmas.

The Dilemma: For many of us, money is pretty tight. We've heard a lot of families talking about cutting back on some of their holiday gift-giving and celebrations to avoid stretching themselves too thin financially. How can we observe the holidays without having to sacrifice too much? Should we scrap gifts for friends and more distant family members — and if so, how can we do that delicately? Is it better to cut out taking a family vacation in favor of more presents for the kids? If gifts have to be scaled way back from previous years, should we tell our children beforehand so they aren't disappointed? How should we handle the holidays on a budget without losing the joy of the season?

Caroline's Ruling: For some, the holidays can be a stressful time, and having the added pressure to “produce” when it comes to gift-giving doesn't help at all. I feel like we're our own worst enemy at times. We obsess over buying the hottest new items for our kids to have, whether they asked for it or not. It's almost like bragging rights, as if securing that item makes you a better person. Ridiculous when you really think about it, right? Many of you are probably nodding your heads in agreement knowing this is true and are going to drive yourselves crazy anyway. Admit it, you know you will. I know this because I've been there. Over the years there have been many gifts my kids have asked for — some they've received and some they didn't. Guess what? This is going to sound crazy, but when that coveted item wasn't under the tree, they survived and so did I. We're still here!!!! All kidding aside, stop stressing. If you don't have the means to give to everyone, or you find yourself having to cut back, it's not the end of the world. There should be no shame in telling a family member or friend that you would prefer not to exchange gifts. You never know, they may be thinking the same thing and may be thrilled at the suggestion. Communicate openly and honestly. By doing so, you will avoid hurting anyone's feelings when there is no gift for them on the holiday.

I'm sorry, but to think for one minute that you should eliminate a family vacation in order to have more gifts on a holiday is insanity. Let's not lose our focus here, people. Vacation is for spending quality time with family and friends. It is usually a time to relax, bond and create memories. Newsflash: so are the holidays. It's about togetherness, tradition, bonding and memories. The joy of the season is not about what you can buy; it's about what you create. When I look back at old photographs of holidays gone by, I see the people that have meant the most to me in my life, past and present. I've got pictures of everyone laughing, hugging, talking, baking, cooking, cleaning, sleeping, arguing, etc., etc., etc. I don't have a single picture of anyone standing in line stressing out over buying a gift. So maybe you can't afford the “it” gift of the year. Maybe you have to cut back on the quantity of gifts that your children receive. Remember, it's not the quantity; it's the quality. Allow yourself to let go of the guilt. Trust me, you'll all survive.

Here's wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday surrounded by those we love. To me, that's the ultimate gift. Wouldn't you agree?

  • From marriage dilemmas to family issues, Caroline's got the answers!

    Photo by Michael T. Greco
Caroline Rules
How Can I Make the Holidays Happy on a Budget?
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