A mindful holiday shopping guide

Today I am delighted to share the first fruits of a dream partnership with you: a gorgeous (and totally free) Mindful Holiday Shopping Guide e-book, presented by Fortuna Money and Jean’s Apothecare.

I’ve loved Jean’s Apothecare and their ethically-sourced, sustainably-produced teas, culinary goods, and body care products since long before I became close friends with their amazing founder, Casey Jean Miller. We’ve looked for a way to work together for awhile now, and a holiday partnership felt like the perfect connection point. After all, Fortuna Money wants to alleviate your financial stress, and Jean’s Apothecare wants to alleviate your physical and mental stress. With our powers combined, we’ve created this guide to help prepare you for a no-panic-needed, mindful, joyful, and deeply peaceful holiday season.

Gallup reports that 93% of Americans participate in Christmas in some way. Our timelines and terms skew 12/25-centric, but we have respect for all holiday traditions here. If you’re celebrating Hanukkah (December 18-26 in 2022), Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1), Solstice (December 21), or another holiday gifting tradition, we welcome you and honor your celebrations!

With 31 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2022, this is one of the longer “official” holiday shopping seasons. We’re launching this now because one of the most effective ways to support your well-being this season is by planning ahead. Shopping early means you get the best selection and the smoothest service from both small businesses and big ones. And because procrastination often spirals into mindless panic purchases and overspending, beginning your planning and purchasing now can be great for your wallet and your stress levels.

This guide can help you identify who you’re gifting and what they like, and it can also help you figure out your overall and per-person gift budgets. We’ve even created a printable shopping planner and gift tracker for you (and yes, dear spreadsheet geeks, there’s an Excel and a Google Sheets version available for download that will automatically tally your spending). A few minutes spent on intentionality before you shop can save you time, money, and stress, and we’ve got you covered.

This post includes a little financially-specific sneak preview of what you’ll find inside, but truly, you’ll want to head over to Jean’s Apothecare and download the full Mindful Holiday Shopping Guide, which includes that printable shopping planner. Not only does the full guide have more guidance around the who, where, and when of gifting (shipping deadlines are not messing around this year, y’all – FedEx Ground is December 14?!), but Casey Jean has also included really lovely mindfulness meditations and journaling prompts as no-cost ways to support your well-being this holiday season.

Holiday shopping? In this economy?!

Real talk time: 2022 may be a tough holiday gifting year for some of us. Stimulus checks are done. Student loan forgiveness is kinda up in the air. Inflation has pulled a Cousin Eddie, parked the RV in front of the house, and appears to be pumping sewage into the storm drain.

And even if you’re not subject to one of the mass layoffs that have been grabbing headlines, this year’s Christmas bonus at many companies may well be the Jelly-of-the-Month Club.

This is creating stress for many people. If you’re one of them, it’s essential to be both realistic and gentle with yourself as you plan your holiday spending.

You probably know deep down that people who truly love you won’t want to see you gifting beyond your means. And yet, holiday shopping can be incredibly emotional for many of us as we try to meet all kinds of self- or externally-imposed expectations. These emotions can create conditions where we make decisions that we don’t feel especially empowered about later. One survey by MoneyGeek found the following:

  • More than a quarter of Americans feel regret about their holiday spending, and most feel like they overdid it (although some do wish they’d spent more).
  • The more credit cards people had, the more likely they were to use credit to pay for holiday purchases. (The survey didn’t ask, but I’d bet my December credit card rewards that a big chunk of those extra cards were store cards opened right as the person was checking out in the store or online, because the retailer offered a big discount.)
  • A full 65% of holiday spending was paid for with credit cards, and as someone who loves and uses my credit card for a bunch of reasons (fraud protection! rewards!), I’m not mad at that! Except…
  • By February 11, 2022, 40% of people were still not done paying off those holiday debts. With median credit card interest rates at 21.99% in November 2022, that is a serious penalty to pay for your holiday generosity, and probably gobbles up all the money you saved with the new store credit card discount.
    • As we talk about in our post on financially healthy ways to boost your credit, using more than 30% of your credit limit or posting late payments are two of the fastest ways to dent your credit score and financial well-being.
    • We personally do not recommend credit card usage if you’re not willing and able to pay it off in full every month.

An important component of planning your holiday spending ahead of time is that it allows you to gift meaningfully while respecting your own budget. As you decide what to spend, remember: people who genuinely care about you are going to care more about your well-being than about the size of the gift you get them. If last year was an Apple Watch year and this year is an apple pie year, someone who loves you is going to understand that!

Finding (metaphorical) change in the couch cushions

If you’re experiencing some financial stress, you may be feeling nervous or avoidant about a hard look at holiday spending; taking the “I’ll just get what feels right and figure out what it all costs later” road can be very tempting. #beenthere

Dear reader, the only way out of money stress is straight through, with a healthy dose of self-compassion and as much humor as you can muster up. You are the farthest thing from alone here.

The healthiest choice you can make is to take an honest look at your current financial situation, and explore the total gift spending amount that realistically suits your budget and your comfort level over the next couple months. We don’t want to put you in a position where you’re paying 21.99% interest on presents for months after they’ve been opened.

If the amount you can afford to set aside for gifting is smaller than you’d like and your holiday gifting tradition is meaningful to you, now is a great time to start mindfully choosing to prioritize building your gift fund over any fun-but-unnecessary things that might wait until after January 1.

Here are some quick wins:

  • If there’s a monthly subscription for a service you’re not really using or could comfortably cut back on, consider canceling or pausing it. You can always renew it after the New Year. Any discretionary annual auto-renews coming up in the next two months might also be worth waiting for, if they’re a lower priority than your holiday gifts. (Canceling memberships also has a sneaky way of prompting the service provider to come knocking with a better deal, which you can always consider after your shopping is done!)
  • Leaning into the “use-what-you-have” philosophy – whether it’s beauty products or coffee beans or what’s in your pantry or your TBR pile – can buy you a little more breathing room in this season. Use it all up and start the new year with a clean slate!
  • Before you swipe or click add-to-cart for a discretionary purchase, ask yourself if you really need the thing right now. If you do, great. If you don’t, put it on a treat-yo-self list. January famously feels kind of blah. What if January 2023 means you can reward yourself for sticking to your spending plan, by shopping from your treats list?

Listen: holidays are already stressful. We’re not saying you have to go full-deprivation here; just add a little value-check in your day-to-day spending. If what you’re spending discretionary money on feels less important to you than holiday generosity, and you can forgo those purchases without hardship, you’re doing future-you a big favor.

And finally… don’t forget to take travel costs into account as part of your holiday budget planning. If you’re traveling to visit people you love, your presence is a present. You can still get gifts if you want (and can afford) to, but if you need a permission slip to gift a little smaller because your plane tickets cost a small fortune (which is likely this year, so please don’t put off booking your tickets), here it is.

Parsing your per-person prices

If you’re in a state of big abundance, you might be able to afford to start by figuring out how much you want to spend for the people on your list, and working backwards from there to identify your total. But if not, it’s time to take the total amount you can afford to set aside for gifting (which you just calculated), and start allocating individual spending limits to each person.

Everybody on your nice list should have a planned spending limit; you might find that these limits wiggle a little once you actually start shopping, but it’s good to start somewhere and update if you need to. The full Mindful Holiday Shopping Guide includes a printable gift planning and spending tracker, but if you’d like a digital version, you can download the Excel or Google Sheets version for personal use.

Don’t abandon ship(ping) just yet

For both timeline and budget reasons, please don’t forget about shipping! Many a budget has been busted on unexpectedly-expensive shipping costs, especially for last-minute shoppers. Factor that cost into both your gift selection and your timeline. Shipping costs have gone up this year, so shopping early can really make a difference to what you can buy.

And for time, money, and stress reasons, the earlier you place your order(s), the better. If you’re able to do so, your mental health will be so thankful that you placed your orders BEFORE Black Friday. Small business owner insight: Casey Jean says that year after year, she’s seen that orders placed between Black Friday and Cyber Monday tend to wind up in a weird North Pole bottleneck that sometimes means they arrive much later than even early-December orders. We don’t want that for you!

More support for the season

If you like what you’ve seen here and you want support from small businesses that respect both your budget and boundaries, you’ll enjoy the full printable Mindful Holiday Shopping Guide. Although it’s got some pretty mouthwatering brand photography of pretty teas and candles and snacks, it’s not written to urge you to buy-buy-buy. It’s more like a coffee date with a couple of good friends who want to walk you through a less-stressed season. (And the free guided meditations are really helpful!)

If you would like any support figuring out your holiday budget (or your regular budget), Fortuna Money is here to help you get your money life aligned with your values, not just your billing cycles. Grab a 15-minute “ask me anything” consultation if you’d like to know more about that.

And if you want support to stay within budget while still giving wonderful gifts, the Jean’s Apothecare Secret Elf Program is a pretty unique offering (that we think more small businesses should do, because it’s amazing!). Jean’s Apothecare provides this concierge gifting service, free of charge, that takes so much stress out of holiday shopping. You provide Casey Jean with insights to your gift recipients and your budget(s), and she develops a menu of gift recommendations tailored to you.

Not only can this help you stay on budget, but it can also save you time and energy. Because you’re getting concierge service, you’re not placing five different orders to ship them off to five different places; you’re not stressing out about what just went out of stock; you’re not scouring the entire website to figure out which skin-care products might work for your friend with super-sensitive skin. You have a Secret Elf for that, and it’s fabulous.

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