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Reducing Stress by Taking Control of Your Holiday Spending

Guest speaker and founder of The Savvy Life, Melissa Tosetti, shares her helpful tips and tricks on how you can avoid feeling stressed around the holidays by being more conscious with your spending and learning to have a more positive experience with money overall.

In this video, Reducing Stress by Taking Control of Your Holiday Spending, we talk about tips and tricks to spend smarter this holiday season.

Watch the video below, or scroll down to read the transcript.

Topics Discussed:

• How to enjoy the holidays, not just survive them

• Know your holiday time constraints - how last-minute shopping leads to overspending

• How much should you spend during the holidays?

• Tips for saving and spending during the holidays

• Charity during the holidays

Video Transcript

Brendan Sheehan: Well, everyone, we're going to start in about one minute, just want to see people start joining the presentation and we'll give about a minute for folks to come join with us.

Melissa Tosetti: I feel like we should drink some eggnog or something while we're waiting.

Brendan Sheehan: I got my water here, but that's about the extent of my-

Melissa Tosetti: Not the same.

Melissa Tosetti: There's another poll, to eggnog or not to eggnog.

Brendan Sheehan: Funny, my wife is very anti-eggnog. I've only had eggnog when it's been mixed with other stuff, so we'll just leave it at that.

Brendan Sheehan: Wait another few seconds and then we'll get rolling.

Brendan Sheehan: Well, why don't we start, thank you all for attending. Today's guest we have Melissa Tosetti, she's joining us from sunny California. We're here in Boston where it's a very snowy for the last two days and it has been wearing on everyone's nerves, I think. But we're good, we're getting ready for the holiday season so we decided that we would do a webinar on spending and budgeting and just being very responsible during the holidays. So that's what this webinar is all about, let's get started.

Brendan Sheehan: A couple of housekeeping items. If you do have any questions, feel free to use the hand raise or at the bottom of the screen there should be a question and answer section where you can actually raise your hand, ask questions real time and, and we'll go from there.

Brendan Sheehan: We'll start with some disclosures because with any one of these, we do need to make sure that you know that everything here that is going to be presented is very general in nature. And so to make sure that it's for educational and informational purposes only.

Brendan Sheehan: So let's jump in, Melissa has a called The Savvy Life and her, I'll move this so that you can see that ... So, The Savvy Life and her job, and she can give a little bit of background on how she ended up with Savvy Life. But her job is to help people and companies and financial planners like me, help their clients with budgeting and just making smart decisions with their money.

Brendan Sheehan: One thing that she and I discussed prior to the workshop starting was that, she wants people to have a positive experience with money. When you think about budgeting, sometimes people feel negative about it. They feel like it's a willpower thing where they're depriving themselves and things, and I think Melissa will talk about just making sure that you're working and spending money more purposefully and ultimately increasing the quality of life. So with all of that, and with that introduction, I'll turn it over to Melissa.

Melissa Tosetti: Thank you, hello everybody. So when it comes to the holidays, for some people the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it brings to mind images of just delicious holiday meals shared with family. The anticipation of Christmas morning when your loved ones are opening the perfect gifts that you've been dying to give them and all of the trimmings that go along with the last, five, six weeks of the year.

Melissa Tosetti: But for other people, the holidays unleash a dread and it's a dread of finding the time and the money to buy all the groceries, to buy all the gifts, the decorations, dragging the holiday ornaments down from the attic knowing that 30 days later you're just going to put them back up again, and then finding the time and the money to find and purchase all those gifts. And many of those folks, all of this is in anticipation and knowing that your holiday hangover is going to hit full force come January 15th when the credit card bill arrives.

Melissa Tosetti: So how do you go from barely surviving the holidays to actually enjoying them? Well, obviously you're on this webinar because that's what we're going to be talking about. My goal is to give you dozens of just tips and tricks to help you to spend smarter around the holidays and not just money, but time and energy as well, and also to save your sanity.

Melissa Tosetti: So as Brendan mentioned, my name is Melissa Tosetti. I am the founder of the Savvy Life and for the last eight years we have actually been working as an outside resource for financial advisors doing cashflow planning for their clients. When I'm not working one-on-one with a client to help them to create a spending plan, we do events such as this one. We do webinars, we do in-person events, all with the goal, whether we're working one-on-one with somebody or presenting to audience.

Melissa Tosetti: Our goal is to help people find the balance between doing right by their future selves. Finding the money to create that strong financial foundation, but doing that while enjoying the journey and the way that we teach that is it all boils down to teaching them to spend purposefully, both their time and their money. In today's session we're going to focus on one of the times of the year that really can unfortunately rear an ugly head and it can cause a lot of dread for folks, and we'll want to flip that and actually create some just again, tools and tips and tricks to help you to really enjoy the holidays, to spend smart so you can enjoy them that much more.

Melissa Tosetti: As you can tell from this particular slide, there are multiple reasons why the holidays are a time for so many of feelings of survival.

Melissa Tosetti: It could be that the financial stress, so as I mentioned, finding the money to buy all the gifts to buy all the extra ingredients for those holiday meals. That can create a huge level of stress, and then ... I work with clients from California all the way to Massachusetts and everywhere in between, we are all struggling for time. We are all over taxed, and then now the last five weeks of the year, four weeks of the year, we're trying to shove all these other things into our schedules. It's just insanity. And then of course there's social commitments, either trying to get to and commit to all this social commitments.

Melissa Tosetti: Or on the flip side, for a lot of people it's very uncomfortable for them to say no to a particular invitation. And then on top of all of that, there is the stress of trying to meet families expectations of what the holidays should look like, which by the way is impossible, because everybody has a different idea of what the holidays should look like.

Melissa Tosetti: So you can make yourself crazy trying to make sure that everybody has the holiday that is going to be exactly what they dream of. And then on top of all of this, and this is the thing that really puts me over the edge, and is one of the reasons why I feel so strongly about the information in this particular webinar is that for most families, there is usually one person in the family that it's their burden to make the holiday magic happen.

Melissa Tosetti: And my guess is that person in your family is you since you're the one who's logged onto the webinar. Well-

Brendan Sheehan: I was thinking that.

Melissa Tosetti: I mean it makes sense, right. So we're going to start right away by giving you some tips to get you on the other side of that. And again, so that the entire family can enjoy the holidays and not just the kids, not just the spouse or partner.

Brendan Sheehan: I think the one thing that you'd said, Melissa, that I think is worth kind of echoing is the power of no and not saying yes to everything because to your point, I think the thing that that stresses most people out, is just being stretched too thin. I've already been invited to, and I'm not trying to say this is a popularity contest, but I've already been invited to three holiday parties and there's just no possible way to do that.

Brendan Sheehan: And also, make time for my nuclear family and watch Elf and all the Christmas specials that we want to watch together as a family and also meet all these obligations. So I think it's really important to be okay with saying no to people, and I think people are, I would say for the most part, some people do get a little bit peeved when you say no to their wonderful party that they're spending months and months planning, but for the most part I think most people understand that there's a lot of commitments during the holiday.

Melissa Tosetti: I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole on this one, but when we first started the Savvy Life, it was all about being purposeful with money, and that was really the focus. But very quickly we started to see the correlation between time and money and actually we've talked a lot with clients about how to manage that so you can actually enjoy your time, enjoy your life, and it's the actual focus of our next book that we're starting to write in two weeks is Savvy Time strategies related to money. So the struggle is real.

Brendan Sheehan: So you're going to start writing the book the week before Christmas?

Melissa Tosetti: Yeah, because you know-

Brendan Sheehan: Talk about time constraints.

Melissa Tosetti: Well as you know, in our industry, that's when things start to quiet down a little bit is in that second weekend. So I really am being strategic.

Brendan Sheehan: Got it, got it, got it.

Melissa Tosetti: When it comes to you ... You got to start, you got to have a plan and I know that sounds like a very type A thing to do, but without a plan it's very challenging for the holidays to turn out the way that you want them to. So what I encourage you to do is sometime in the next two days, sit down, take no more than five minutes and just write out what do you want the holidays to look like for you and your family. What were elements of previous holidays that just really made it for you? For me, it's the tree. It's the lights in the living room, that tree, it just immediately puts me in the happiest of moods.

Melissa Tosetti: So sometimes it's the smallest thing that really has the greatest impact on what our enjoyment of that is or a family's enjoyment. So it's critical to start there and then build your plan from there. The next thing is, if you don't already have a savings account for the holidays and spending, while that might not be a great benefit to you now to start, what I suggest to you is actually go ahead and set that up now anyway. Use the impetus of being in this time period to go ahead and pull the trigger, start that account and that way all throughout the coming year, you can just put a little bit of money in there, each pay period and come end of November all that money's been saved up for you and it takes the burden of the financial aspect of the holidays off of you. And in my own experience of working with so many clients, that was a pivotal piece to take that financial stress off of them.

Brendan Sheehan: So Melissa, can I pause you for one second? So I think what you're referring to is the classic Christmas fund. You know, the Christmas account that you actually would open a specific savings account and save throughout the year and build a pot of money for that savings account.

Melissa Tosetti: Exactly, and they're not as common anymore. Which is so funny because there's so many different savings vehicles out there, but it's definitely a habit that should make a comeback because it really is pivotal.

Brendan Sheehan: Interesting, so you're probably anti-credit cards during the holidays.

Melissa Tosetti: No, not at all, for the time and place and that's actually working with clients. It's that conversation about how do you use them in a way that is going to be for good and not evil.

Brendan Sheehan: Fair enough.

Melissa Tosetti: Then we're in the middle of it, right. If you're not already shopping, please start. It's the fact of the matter is that the more time that you give yourself to shop, the more time you're going to have to buy what you want to buy and at the best possible price that you can get for that.

Melissa Tosetti: Do you mind clicking on the next slide for me please?

Brendan Sheehan: Sure, I'm going to pause you for one second on the start shopping piece. Couple comments on that, and questions. The first is, I'm a big Black Friday Cyber Monday shopping guy and one of the things that I've learned is just that, you shop places where the return policies are very liberal. So as Melissa probably knows, that Costco is one of my favorite places to shop and they have, kind of like an LL Bean return policy where they pretty much will take back anything.

Brendan Sheehan: So you can do those impulse buys and then I think to Melissa's point, if you have the maximum number of days between now and Christmas, you actually could potentially find a better deal somewhere else, return that thing that you bought on Black Friday, Cyber Monday.

Brendan Sheehan: So that's ... I don't know if you disagree with that, but that's kind of one of the things that I've used as a strategy to just make sure that I'm getting the best deal because it seems like each and every week there is a new special day or a special promotion that's going on between now and Christmas.

Melissa Tosetti: Correct, and the other aspect of that too is that when we start overspending around the holidays is usually when we start running out of time. And that's when we don't care, we just, we need something and then the other unfortunate aspect of that though, is that's when you start to buy things that you really don't have the same energy around that gift, and that's not what the holidays are all about. It's not about throwing something under the tree, it's about intention and desire of giving.

Brendan Sheehan: Sure.

Melissa Tosetti: So this next slide, I'll touch on really quickly. It's really where, again, we're trying to fit so much into this last month of the year without actually blocking time on calendars. That's when we're starting to that we're getting squeezed, and so your homework assignment today is to sit down and figure out, first of all, what are all your obligations.

Melissa Tosetti: Those holiday commitments that you have already committed to, the actual holiday itself, plus your kids' Christmas concert, those types of things. Get those on the calendar. If there are any travel time around it, block that time on your calendar because that's when we, again, we start to get too rushed. I feel like a family's calendar is really the compass of their entire life and without properly managing it, it really is just ... That's when we start to get stressed out.

Melissa Tosetti: The other, the second bullet on here I think is the most important bullet of all of this and if you guys get nothing else out of today's presentation but take and run with this, I will feel like my time is well spent. And that is that at least one, if not two days out of the week during the work week you are going to block out your evenings for downtime.

Melissa Tosetti: This is something that I started doing about five years ago. I've been preaching about it ever since and I got to a point where I realized why am I just doing this during the holidays? So it's actually something that I now do year round, and that is Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's just me and my son, my husband works nights and we have just our ritual around relaxing. Might read a book, might watch a movie together but the idea is that we are not out stressing, we're not out doing and what that does, especially this time of year is that gives your body a chance to relax and to recuperate because you're going in and out of cold spaces, especially if you're where you are.

Melissa Tosetti: And it is giving you a chance after eating richer foods, drinking a little bit more, that's taxing on the body. So something as simple as this, it helps you to make sure that you enjoy that entire month, that you're not getting sick while all your coworkers are getting sick and you know what? When else are you going to watch Elf, or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. You've got to block that time out.

Brendan Sheehan: Very good points.

Melissa Tosetti: And then the other key is not to over-schedule, because that's the other thing, we are masters of over scheduling here in the U.S., so give yourself an opportunity to take advantage of last minute invitations.

Melissa Tosetti: All right, the next-

Brendan Sheehan: [inaudible 00:00:18:20].

Melissa Tosetti: Sorry, what was that?

Brendan Sheehan: I just said, next slide.

Melissa Tosetti: Thank you.

Melissa Tosetti: One of the most common questions that I get asked around the holidays is how much should I spend? And there is one hard fast answer and that first hard fast answer is, or that one hard fast answer is, you should only spend what you can afford. Because the minute that you are overspending, that you've exceeded your budget, that energy of the intention of that gift changes. And I don't mean woo woo energy, I just mean that, we feel a little bit different because now there's some anxiety around that gift, and that's not what the holidays should be about. Now, if you are not living as close to the edge financially and you're still looking for an idea, what's a guideline for how much to spend?

Melissa Tosetti: There is a rule of thumb that you should spend no more than 1.5% of your annual take home pay on the holidays. No more than 1.5%, so that's for everything that you see, their gifts, meals, travel, decorating, charity, all of it. Now obviously that's a rule of thumb, if you have a really small family and you're making $500,000 a year, you may not want to spend that amount. If you have 17 grandchildren, like one client that I had, it's likely you might be spending a little bit more, but it is a starting point of a guideline.

Melissa Tosetti: Can you go ahead and hit the next slide?

Brendan Sheehan: Yes.

Melissa Tosetti: Thank you.

Melissa Tosetti: All right, so here's the thing. This is what it's all about. So, I want to back up. I just paused myself for a second because this is not what it's all about, but this is where a lot of the stress comes in, is in the actual shopping for gifts, et cetera. What I do suggest is to start by now you know how much money you want to spend on gifts themselves, you create your list of everybody that you want to buy for. If you want to buy a gift for the mailman, you add that gift on there and now you have to figure out, give yourself a guideline for each gift out of my budget how much do I want to stick around spending? Then as you go along and you start purchasing gifts, you can adjust. So if you spent more on one gift, that means you have a little bit less maybe on some others, or if you spent less on a gift that gives you a little bit more breathing room around some of the others.

Melissa Tosetti: So that idea of adjusting your budget as you go. Lot of folks, you know online shopping is an absolute game changer as far as the holidays go but for those folks that still really enjoy going into stores, what I strongly suggest is start paying attention to the sales ads of your favorite stores. Check them weekly because it's going to give you a couple of opportunities. First of all, it can save you time, energy, and money by looking at that sales ad and going, oh there's nothing really here that I want to buy. So now you're not having to actually take that trek and go and shop and just kind of walk around the store aimlessly. If there is something there, number one the ad can give you some ideas on what you might be able to knock off a couple of the gifts on your list and because it's a sales ad, it's likely going to be at a good price and that's a system you can actually use throughout the rest of the year.

Melissa Tosetti: That next bullet is very, very important and that is to the best of your ability to be systematic in your shopping. I found one year that I kept going back to the same stores again and again, and while they do change their inventory a tiny bit, it was never enough to justify being a zombie and walking around and wasting that time and so the idea is that when you walk into a store, you are going to be very systematic and with the intention that, that's the last time you're going to go into that store until after the holidays.

Melissa Tosetti: Just keep an open mind, keep your list handy and you may be at Home Depot, but stumble across the perfect gift for your aunt. You might not have walked into Home Depot looking for a gift for your aunt, but because you had an open mind walking in, you saw it and that can make all the difference in the world. The faster you knock off those gifts, the more time and energy you have to do the other things that are much more fun around the holidays.

Brendan Sheehan: Melissa, it's interesting, I feel like there may have been kind of mixed messages in what you just said.

Melissa Tosetti: Okay.

Brendan Sheehan: The first is, with the sales ads it kind of helps you to target what stores you actually want to hit and what deals you actually want to get. But at the same time it sounds like by going in the store, sometimes you get alternative ideas for the aunt at Home Depot and things like that. So can you help me to reconcile those two ideas because one of the things, and this is something that I've talked to a lot of clients about, is my personal experience with you and my wife. When we came to see you as a client and one of the things you would ask us about, again, I go back to Costco, you had said, how many times do you go to Costco?

Brendan Sheehan: I said maybe twice a month, and you said you know the sales pattern that they're trying to get you into is that you walk in with a list of three things and you walk out with 30, so is there a way that you can cut down the number of times you go to Costco to maybe a month so that you don't fall into the trap of walking into the store with the list of three and walk out with 30. So help me to kind of reconcile those ideas of being very targeted and going into the stores, but at the same time being open minded to other ideas that you might see in aisle six.

Melissa Tosetti: Yeah, absolutely and that was a really great catch. So there's two pieces to this. One piece is that sales ad gives you an opportunity to be able to save that time. If there's nothing in there on that sales ad that you see, that is an impetus for going into that store you may avoid going into that store for a while. Or if you've already been to that store and the next sales ad has something jumping out at you that's like oh my gosh, this is a perfect thing how did I miss that before and now it's on sale. Then you're going to go back to that store, that makes sense. The other piece of this is at some point you're getting closer to the holidays and you got to suck it up and go in.

Brendan Sheehan: Okay.

Melissa Tosetti: At some point you realize to the best of your ability, you've tried to stay out of the stores or only be very purposeful and going. So now once you go in, you are going to go in again with eyes wide open and really just try to see everything. I don't know if you've ever had the experience where you just, you walk into a store and you kind of ... A bit of blinders on or you're just, you're tired, you're whatever, whatever it is, but you're not really forgive the pun but you're not really present at that moment and there's an opportunity to miss opportunities if you will. So that was an excellent catch, because there is ... I'm also trying to kind of fly through this a little bit because there's a lot of material but there's a lot of nuances to a lot of this.

Brendan Sheehan: Got it.

Melissa Tosetti: Okay, so here's a big one. I feel like over the years, if I look back to some of my favorite gifts that I have received or gifts that I've given, so many of them did not come from a brick and mortar store or aspects of them did not or ... There was a little bit more intention around them, and a couple of examples could be photos are memories and they are just about one of the most personable things that you can give somebody. And over the years and talking with folks, I found that pictures of family members that are gone or like one of the greatest, one of the gifts I gave that I was so excited about and I actually just inherited back is my dad was a cowboy and so I gave him a picture one year, it was three pictures.

Melissa Tosetti: The first picture was me at about eight years old behind him on his horse, Snidely Whiplash. The next picture was a picture of the two of us on a cattle drive that we had done, and then the third picture was a picture of me and my dad and my son and so it was this kind of activity and he loved it. It was prominent in the living room because that captured us. I couldn't buy that in a store, and again I've heard over and over about how powerful that that is. Sometimes it's the picture alone sometimes the way that it's presented. I've also learned that for some people baking is witchcraft. Something that they just cannot conceive of doing and as your daughter knows, there's so much love in baked goods, so that can be just such a beautiful gift to give to somebody.

Melissa Tosetti: There is a book written about just about every single person's passion, so there is, whether they're a nonfiction reader, a fiction reader or a collector. Books are ... There's gold in those sales places at the front of the store in Barnes and Noble, I can't think of the term right now where they put all the sales books. Sound familiar?

Brendan Sheehan: Coffee table book?

Melissa Tosetti: Yes. Coffee table books and things like that, but at the front of most bookstores, they have all their sales, the books that are on sale or a deep discount. There's treasure in there and very personal treasure as well. If you have family members or friends that just got their first apartment or just got their first house, holiday ornaments, that's one of the greatest gifts you can give them because they will think about you every single year. We just put our tree up on Sunday and that's exactly what it was. It's just reminiscing every single year movies-

Brendan Sheehan: And you can kind of combine the number one and number four, because I know there are some holiday ornaments that you can actually put a photo in like, baby's first Christmas and a pet that's passed away, we have a couple of those on the tree.

Melissa Tosetti: Us too.

Brendan Sheehan: I think about our good dog, Cody and I and we just put up a picture of my little, my now 13 year old when she was probably about four with Cody on Santa's lap and the tears started flowing [crosstalk 00:28:58].

Melissa Tosetti: And so just saying that reminds me of why it's so important to wrap your arms and your time around the holidays. Because that's what it should be all about, it's not the going nuts and the over the top stuff and everything. It's those precious moments and that's why I love this particular presentation so much because it is, it just pulls at your heartstrings if done right.

Melissa Tosetti: Now just a couple more things on here, there are so many people out there that have ... They just have enough, they don't need anything and if you do a charitable donation in their name, that's the best gift that you can give them. Family recipes, a compilation of family recipes because food is family, food is culture and that is just again, a very personal gift that you can get. But I do want to spend just a moment talking about that last one and that is time.

Melissa Tosetti: Gosh, it's probably been 18 years ago. My friends and I, I'm very blessed, I've got 20 really extraordinarily close friends and we were just killing ourselves, trying to buy gifts for each other every single holiday. This was before the Savvy Life and I finally raised my hand and I was like, look, instead of kind of going nuts and being all stressed out about this, what do you guys think about, we rent a cabin up at Lake Tahoe for President's Day weekend and we'll go out, but we'll play in the snow and we'll have fun.

Melissa Tosetti: We've been doing that almost every single year since then, and I can tell you for a fact that for every single one of us, including my son Dante who's now 12, some of our favorite memories are during that time. It's nothing that could be bought in a store, but it is just the greatest gift that we can give to each other is that time. Eating, drinking, sledding in the snow, having just an absolute blast. So some gifts, some of the best gifts really can't be bought online or bought through a store. It's just really about just taking a couple steps back and thinking and giving yourself that time to do that.

Brendan Sheehan: Yeah, I love that idea, Melissa. And one of the things that I talk to my clients, especially the older ones, and I'll be even more specific, somewhere between age 60 and I'd say 80. I think that that gift right there, the gift of time, the gift of vacations and joint vacations with everyone is huge because, and the reason why I say the 60 to 80 is one, hopefully they've made a good amount of money so that they actually have some savings where they could actually spend a little bit more than what they might normally spend.

Brendan Sheehan: But the other piece is health. You want to be able to travel with your family when you're feeling well and not if you're really struggling to get around if you're over the age of 80 then things I tell my clients, things start slowing down with a lot of my clients. So I do think I agree with you 100%. You know, those family vacations where you could actually just carve out a week to spend some time with family from all around the country, spend time with grandparents. Totally invaluable and those are the things that people will remember forever.

Melissa Tosetti: Exactly, and data source after data source says that money spent on adventure and the doing is just so much more value than money spent on things to a great degree.

Melissa Tosetti: How are we doing on time?

Brendan Sheehan: [inaudible 00:32:35] I see that we have quite a few more slides to go, but like to finish up probably in another 10, 15 minutes.

Melissa Tosetti: Yeah, you got it. This particular slide is really dedicated to those people that have, their kids are just starting out on their own, and what ends up happening when you're in your own apartment for the first time and you walk into a place like Target during the holidays, you want to just buy everything and come home and decorate this new place that you just had and go crazy.

Melissa Tosetti: So this is all advice I got from a very savvy aunt when I had that personal experience myself many years ago and it's really about little things can make a big difference as far as decorating goes. Getting a little bit creative, but also really understanding that when it comes to holidays and decor as much as that desire is there to really go crazy. The decorating and the accumulations, the decorations should be done over time because those are memory keepers.

Melissa Tosetti: When we were just decorating the tree, I found the little scotch bottles that we brought back from Scotland and the little train decoration from when we did the Yukon, the train ride on the Yukon on one of our cruises. So it's just that idea of allowing it to evolve because you're going to blink and your house is going to be just have Christmas all over it, because time goes by so very, very quickly.

Melissa Tosetti: Can you hit the next slide please?

Brendan Sheehan: Sure.

Melissa Tosetti: So for many, many of the clients that we work with, charity is incredibly important to them. They are gift givers by nature, and a couple of just those top, those top three bullets, we're very aware of these organizations. They are some of the best as far as really being able to help others, but I feel very strongly that charity does not always necessarily need to be a tax write off.

Melissa Tosetti: One of my friends, Joel, I'm on a group with him. We meet every single week and have done for the last eight years. Joel and his family every year decorate the house of their next door neighbor. She's a widow and so that they're able to give her Christmas because otherwise she just wouldn't have gone through the effort, and again, for Joel and his family that's as much of that at their enjoyment as it is for her. And then they put everything back down again.

Melissa Tosetti: My grandmother always, always every holiday invited a family member or a friend of the family that otherwise would have spent the time by themselves. So again, keeping an open mind around what charity looks like goes a long way towards you enjoying it and you being able to help more people.

Melissa Tosetti: Can you hit that next line?

Brendan Sheehan: Sure, and just with regards to the charity piece, one of the things that we did as a family that again, I know that both my wife, myself and the kids really, really enjoyed was buying for a homeless veteran and buying the whole list of the list of things that they needed and it really kind of brings you down to earth when they're asking for underwear and socks. They're not asking for iPads or and HD TVs or anything, they're just looking for the bare essentials. So it's also yes, it's gift-giving. Yes, it makes you feel good, but yes it's also, especially when you have young kids, a nice little teaching lesson.

Melissa Tosetti: Absolutely. Yes, and personable too. So I had a confession, it reminded me of how powerful this particular slide is. A, the Friday before Thanksgiving, I was at Costco, I had my master list of what I needed at Costco, at Safeway, at Trader Joe's, and got everything in the car, was about 10 minutes away and realized that I left my list in the cart at Costco.

Melissa Tosetti: I've never ever done that before. Talking about being in another world while I was loading up the car. So consequently I was trying to recreate that list and let's just say that I had to go back to Safeway twice the morning before Thanksgiving, so I was a complete and utter failure. But that being said, you know what? You got to-

Brendan Sheehan: You've got to ... Melissa, you've got to convert to an electronic list, so you never lose it.

Melissa Tosetti: I know, I thought about that. I truly, truly thought about that but I'm so tactile. But you're absolutely right because it could have been booted up. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I think that when it comes to holiday meals, this is an area where having pen to paper or, or Excel spreadsheet to meal is very important. Let yourself be very type A around this so that you can just relax and enjoy the preparation of the meal.

Melissa Tosetti: I feel very strongly and keeping it simple, unless your brother-in-law is a chef. For those of us that are not professional chefs, even if we love cooking and my husband and I do, we've learned to keep it simple so that we can enjoy the entire day. We've also learned that when we have bigger meals, people want to contribute, so instead of, no, no, no, I've got everything don't worry about bringing anything, let them, let them do that.

Melissa Tosetti: And then over the course of the next ... I'm looking at my wall calendar, four weeks, your grocery store, your typical grocery store will have everything holiday oriented on sale at some of the best possible prices of the year. Giving yourself an opportunity to plan in advance what that meal is going to be and you can just, each week add a couple more things to your list, to your shopping cart that will help negate having to do a massive shop that particular week and aligning that to what's on sale.

Melissa Tosetti: You'll save money, you'll save time and you'll save energy of that ... When you go to the store for that one big meal and you find that you're zigzagging around the store because you're not being systematic about it, it helps save all of that.

Melissa Tosetti: All right, next-

Brendan Sheehan: I think a couple things on that, that list a couple ideas. One is we've, in my family, definitely adopted the voice assistant, the Alexa and the Google home. So as soon as we run out of something, we pretty much shout in the air, Hey Google, remind me to actually just, [inaudible 00:39:08] I don't know if you heard that. [inaudible 00:39:14] There it goes.

Brendan Sheehan: But you can tell it to add turkey, tell it to add onions to the shopping list, et cetera. Then you actually live off of that electronic shopping list that gets transcribed from your digital assistant over to your phone so that you don't, never miss out on that piece.

Melissa Tosetti: Right, and you don't leave your phone in the shopping cart.

Brendan Sheehan: And you don't do that either.

Melissa Tosetti: I just want to touch on this real quick. Very often I give this presentation in June and I love talking about one of my favorite resources for fighting travel deals, which is Obviously it's too late to take advantage of that particular resource now, but for next year or for your other travel, you might want to check that out. If you are traveling especially great distances for the holidays, I strongly encourage you to have your car, take it in. If it's that time, take it in the week before, not the day before your trip. Just get that taken care of, also for loved ones instead of telling them I'm going to be there at three o'clock, say, I'm going to be there sometime between three and three thirty and you just allow yourself ... You can just relax a little bit more in your travels and you're not trying to get there and be all stressed out.

Melissa Tosetti: And then the last thing on here is very important and this came up just over the weekend, whether you're doing travel by car, travel by plane pack snacks and pack entertainment. My friend Jessie was traveling from California to Nevada to go see her family and she was stuck dead stopped for three hours with her pets on the side of the road in the snow with everybody else. She said there was a soccer game going on next to them because people were just going out of their minds. So luckily she had plenty to drink, she had plenty of snacks. The animals were all taken care of, but that could have been a very different experience otherwise. So just keep that in mind, you may not always have control over when you're going to be able to eat or when you're going to be able to get to your destination.

Brendan Sheehan: Sure.

Melissa Tosetti: The next slide. We just wrote an article about this and posted it on our website,, and that is about how again, we're trying so hard to make sure that everybody else is taken care of, that we forget how to enjoy the holidays ourselves. So watch the holiday TV, drive around and go see the outdoor decor, the neighbors that just go over the top, go Christmas caroling, read holiday stories, go ice skating, indulge in a decadent cup of hot cocoa. Not anything in an envelope, but actual over the top, real milk, real whipping cream, hot cocoa.

Melissa Tosetti: Then I believe, and we can end on this particular slide because I know we're starting to close up on time, but I want to end with this last bullet because I feel so strongly that the greatest holiday things that come out of the last decade was the whole idea of Elf on a Shelf and bringing magic into your homes.

Melissa Tosetti: If you're not familiar with the idea of Elf on a Shelf, it is a little toy that you buy, he's a little elf guy and he basically is supposed to watch over to make sure that the kids are being good so he can report back to Santa. But he gets into his own kind of shenanigans and so parents will put him in all different kinds of scenarios where he's getting into trouble and the kids wake up in the morning and find him that way. About six years ago, my husband and I started with the same idea, we actually got inspired by [Dinovember 00:42:55] and it was a family mom and dad who had their children's dinosaurs come to life as toy dinosaurs come to life every night during the month of November. So we do that with our son and it's his little, this particular set of little toys that he has.

Melissa Tosetti: And so from November, Thanksgiving Eve, all the way to Christmas, every morning he wakes up and they've got into some kind of trouble. Right now they are in my hallway, and they have stacked up toilet paper and they've thrown balls at each other and that's what my hallway looks like right now and it's magic and it's priceless. I mean there's no cost associated with it. It's just a little bit of creativity and it's something that I hope when he figures it out, if he hasn't already that he's going to want to actually participate and have his own night because my husband and I tried back and forth on it. That's-

Brendan Sheehan: We jumped into the Elf on a Shelf a few years ago as well and I can second what you're saying right now. Our Elf on a Shelf I think was having a battle with the other two. They had some toy guns that they were using. It's probably a little bit PG not G, but they were having a little bit of a battle.

Brendan Sheehan: But if you ever run out of ideas, there are plenty of websites that-

Melissa Tosetti: Oh boy.

Brendan Sheehan: Have Elf on a Shelf ideas and similar, my kids wake up every morning and the first thing that they do every morning is first open the advent calendar to get a piece of chocolate, and then second to get the Elf on a Shelf. Where is the Elf on a Shelf hiding today.

Melissa Tosetti: Yeah, that's the stuff they remember, and it's a little thing that you can do if you've got kids or grandkids. It's fun. It's very fun.

Brendan Sheehan: Yep.

Melissa Tosetti: All right. And with that, I think the rest of it is all pretty ... I've pretty much gone over. We just would love to get to that last slide if you will. One more.

Melissa Tosetti: So my whole intention behind all of this is that very often we think that we don't have a choice as far as our ... What the holidays are going to look like. You know we kind of crash along as we go, but if you really can just take five minutes today, sit down, write out what you would like the holidays to look like and just start creating that plan for yourself. You can make sure that you are able to enjoy the holidays along with the rest of your family and I really hope that you do.

Melissa Tosetti: If you have any questions at all about anything that I've gone over today, please feel free to shoot me an email. I'm if you want to hear anything about how it is that we do actually work with clients, you can shoot me an email. You can also check us out on, we've got articles there, videos, links to our YouTube channel on YouTube and, and yeah, thank you very much.

Melissa Tosetti: I love talking about this topic, it's so much fun.

Brendan Sheehan: Yeah, so let me just kind of circle back on a couple things. You had done a homework here where you said these are some of the things that you should do for homework. And I don't know if you want to take them through that, Melissa, or-

Melissa Tosetti: Is that okay? I was worried about time.

Brendan Sheehan: No, that's okay, again no one's going to kick us out.

Melissa Tosetti: So the first one, what do you want the holidays to look like? I touched on that. If you don't already have a holiday savings account and you like the idea of it, even though it's too late to really work for you this particular year, use that pain as an impetus to get that started for next year. Because it's one of those things that it's so easy to constantly put off and that's really where time is on your side.

Melissa Tosetti: As I mentioned, it's December 3rd, we should all be shopping right now, we only have three weeks. And really that last one, once you have that plan, stick to your plan. That is something that you've thought about and you've created an intention around, the media in the next three weeks is going to make you want ... Wants to make you believe that the holidays aren't going to be the holidays if there isn't a brand new car with a big ribbon in the driveway or that you're going to have folks over, you've got to replace your refrigerator when yeah, at some point you want to replace your refrigerator but now might not necessarily be the exact time to do that. So it's just really about making sure that you are the one who is spending your money and you're not getting influenced by outside resources for that.

Brendan Sheehan: Got it, so a couple of final thoughts that I had in addition to the homework was I did really like the idea of time blocking and taking a look at your calendar and being very realistic and saying these are the obligations that we have as a family. And then also just be very purposeful on what days are you just going to sit in front of the fire with your shoes off and watch some of those holiday specials that you grew up with and you want to share with your kids.

Brendan Sheehan: So I really liked that idea. I also ... Everyone loves rules of thumb, so the one and a half percent of your take home pay is kind of the budget that you should be thinking about. But really, that's very much a rule of thumb. I think more importantly is what can you afford.

Brendan Sheehan: And that's obviously on a moving scale, but that's something that we as your financial planner can help you out with. And then I also just, I think we touched on this throughout is just the magic moments and really to enjoy this and try to minimize the impact of the almighty dollar, and try to take advantage of the magical moments of the holiday season.

Brendan Sheehan: So final, final thought on this. You know, Melissa, we talked about this, that she does work with clients on a one-on-one basis. I would say probably at least a third of the people that come to see us have issues with budgeting. That's the fundamental stumbling block for most financial plans, it's very simple. These are your expenses, this is your income, it needs to be in that order where there's a gap between the two.

Brendan Sheehan: And if they're equal or even you're in some kind of deficit situation, Melissa's the person to speak with. And again, I'll give her a little bit of a plug here. I feel like Melissa is tough when she needed to be tough with us, and pretty much call us out when there was something glaring that we didn't see in a blind spot in our plan. But at the same time, one of the things that we admitted is that, one of our family things, is to actually splurge at Starbucks and spend a stupid amount of money on Starbucks but that's our family little thing. We don't really go out to eat all that much, but when we go to Starbucks, each of the kids has their special little $5 drink, and to an outside observer who doesn't like Starbucks, it's an expensive line item on our budget.

Brendan Sheehan: But when we brought that to Melissa and added a little context to it she said okay, your Starbucks budget is sacred, but if you're going to keep it sacred, then we have to look elsewhere to find some extra dollars. And so I feel like Melissa strikes that perfect balance between being tough on you and she needs to be tough on you, but at the same time be open minded when there's things that are near and dear to your heart.

Brendan Sheehan: So with that said, again, Melissa's contact information is up on the screen here. Feel free to reach out to her directly, if you want to speak with me about any of the information that we talked about today, feel free to reach out to me. But with that, I think we will conclude.

Brendan Sheehan: Anything else, Melissa, before we end?

Melissa Tosetti: No, I hope you all have just the most wonderful holiday. Thank you.

Brendan Sheehan: All right, thanks all for joining.

Melissa Tosetti: Thanks.


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