The Best (Unexpected) Gift to Give This Christmas

What if you did things differently this year? What if you set aside a portion of your budget to prepare for emergencies--or helped others with theirs?

As holiday decorations infiltrate department store displays, many families brace for a year-end spending frenzy. But what if, instead of spending the first part of next year repairing your budget, you set your family–or another–up for a year of less money stress?

Try this unexpected gift

According to a 2016 survey by GOBankingRates, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in emergency savings, and 34% have no emergency savings at all.

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You don’t have to be a part of that statistic. By taking a portion of your holiday spending money and using it to kick-start an emergency savings account, you can start the process of creating the financial cushion your family needs. With each monthly deposit you make into 2018 and beyond, you lessen your chance of being rocked by a visit to the ER or an unexpected car repair.

It may not be as glamorous as a new HDTV, but consider this: Money is already a top source of disagreements in the early years of marriage. Most of that conflict comes from misalignment on how to spend the resources you already have–add an unexpected expense to the mix, and the stress only builds. In this case, an emergency savings account is helping to protect more than your bank account. It’s protecting your relationship, too.

Share a gift with others

When disasters like Hurricane Harvey hit with unexpected force, the financial implications are huge. The damage can make returning to everyday life virtually impossible. The holidays are the perfect time to consider helping others recover from their unexpected emergencies.

  • Involve the entire family. If you have kids and you’re worried about shifting their holiday thinking from receiving to giving, it might not be as challenging as you think. Resources like the gift catalogs available through World Vision® or Compassion International® help make giving seem more tangible for kids, as they pick out gifts for other kids like them around the world. Find other resources for fostering generosity in your kids during the holidays here.
  • Look in a variety of places. Do an online search. Thousands of families around the country are still in need of relief from recent disasters. Find a reputable charity fulfilling this need at CharityNavigator® or CharityWatch and check out a charity’s track record at the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
  • Get creative. Random acts of kindness can go a long way. If you know someone who has been struggling recently, now could be the perfect time to give them a much-needed boost, whether that’s buying groceries or paying a bill.
  • Start a tradition. Lee Huffman, a father of a 6-year-old, was able to garner ongoing excitement about giving by starting a tradition. Each year his son saves 20% of his allowance for charity. On Black Friday, Huffman matches the funds, and they pick out gifts for children in need. Even if you don’t have kids, establishing a tradition centered around giving can help you create a more meaningful connection with the holidays and your local community.

By establishing an emergency savings fund and lending a hand this holiday season, you can pave the way for a better 2018 — both for your family, and for others.