Money challenges

How to deal with unique money challenges as South Asian daughters this holiday season

When going home for the holidays, we may notice our family’s financial struggles. Alternatively, we dread coming together with that one aunty who flexes her money on the rest of the family. It can be a really difficult time financially to deal with, especially because as daughters, to prove that we are good enough, or simply enough as daughters, we strive for excellence in our careers and money status.

The money comparison game with other family members, overspending on gifts to show that money isn’t an issue (leaving you with a hefty credit card bill). Or, family asking you to contribute more money to your parents are all challenges you may face on your visit back home. Here are some tips to help you navigate the upcoming holiday season and your money.

Ways to deal with money challenges during the festive period

1. Budget for a “holiday fund” and get creative with alternative gifts

Instead of using your credit card and dealing with the hangover debt come January, begin setting aside money for the holidays weeks to a few months prior so that you have a mini budget that’s intentionally set aside for spending on gifts. Set yourself a goal for the budget (i.e. $500) and then work backwards per paycheck to see how much you need to set aside to hit this goal.

2. Spread your budget

Next, find ways to get creative with gift giving! Instead of buying every family member a gift, propose secret santa so that you just have one or two gifts to purchase. Maybe instead of spending $100 on a sweater, you spend $60 on multiple little gifts for a care package. Or paying for an experience for someone vs. more stuff.

At the end of the day, you are coming together to spend time and create memories, it doesn’t always mean you need to spend a lot of money to do that.

3. Set financial goals as a way to set financial boundaries

If you know each time you go home that your family will ask for more money, it’s really important that you begin sectioning off your savings into specific savings buckets. I recommend labelling the money in your bank accounts (even if you start small!) towards those specific goals (i.e. my down payment fund, my travel fund, and then a family care fund). When I had a lump sum of unmarked money sitting in an account, I felt like I could “afford” giving it away, only to later regret it.

4. Create dedicated bank accounts for the holiday season

I also set up a dedicated account to save for my parents. I need to be realistic about lending money — like many others, I’m unable to completely cut off my bank accounts from my family, and I don’t want to. If you’re in the same situation, I recommend intentionally setting money aside that you know isn’t going to be for you. This reduces any resentment you might feel when supporting a family because you’ve planned for it. It makes giving them money easier.

5. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy!

How to deal with that aunty who flexes her money and your cousins who roll up in the Gucci belts and latest iPhones? Remember that we don’t actually know what’s happening behind closed doors. I’ve seen multiple situations where my clients had a lot of luxury items but it’s all funded by credit card debt. Remember, what you have isn’t an indicator of what you are worth both figuratively and literally.

6. Don’t try to impress

In South Asian culture, the fear of “what will other people think” also extends to our finances. Little do we know of people’s actual financial challenges because our families always put up a front and pretend that they’re doing fine. You may think about your own parents, perhaps they do the same and overspend to impress, but are struggling behind closed doors. Don’t fall into this trap. It’s not worth getting into debt just so people don’t think differently (or less) of you.

Your money is your business

Repeat after me: You don’t have to be completely transparent with your family about how much money you have. I’m a money coach who saved $100,000 by age 26 and this is public knowledge (and I want it to inspire other women to do the same!). But the downside is that now family members know how much money I have.

Many clients have told me that when their family knows how much they earn, they use it as a reason to justify asking for more. Withholding information is not lying, it’s an act of self-protection. You should reveal only that which you feel comfortable revealing.

Heading home for the holiday’s and dealing with lingering money issues can be challenging, setting financial boundaries and reminding yourself of some key perspective shifts can be helpful in making the return home more easier to deal with.

“What you have isn’t an indicator of what you are worth both figuratively and literally.”