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4 Tips for Physicians to Manage Holiday Spending

Whether you’re currently in residency or finally starting your career as a full-fledged physician, it’s important to plan for holiday spending.

When you’re a resident, you don’t have a large budget to spend lavishly on gifts for your friends and family. However, as an attending, you suddenly have more people to consider.

You likely want to be generous, but if you plan to purchase gifts for your family, nurses, office staff, schedulers, and more, a budget can help you manage those expenses.

Below are four tips on how to plan for holiday spending this year.

1. Make a List

Santa makes a list and checks it twice, and so should you. Take some time to sit down and consider everyone who helps you in your day-to-day life. This list will likely include members of your office staff, a secretary, or a scheduler who helps you manage your days.

You should also include friends and family on this list. Consider neighbors, your children’s teachers, and anyone else you’d like to thank for being a part of your life this year.

You can add to this list over the course of a few days, but once you complete it, stick to it.

2. Determine Your Budget

Your budget will vary depending on where you are in your career. If you’re in medical school or a resident, you likely have a smaller budget. As an attending, you might have more income but also more expenses. Don’t feel like you have to give an expensive gift to everyone. The mantra is still true: it’s the thought that counts.

When determining your total holiday budget, you should arrive at a number that feels comfortable for you. You should never go into credit card debt for holiday spending. Buying holiday gifts should be an enjoyable and fun experience. If you resent the amount of money you’re spending, you might be spending too much. Christmas presents shouldn’t break your budget. They should be a part of it that you plan for every year around this time.

In order to stay organized and determine your total cost for holiday gifts, take your list and place a number next to each person on it. This number should reflect the max amount of money you want to spend on them. If you happen to come in under budget, that’s great, but avoid going over it.

Take your list with you when you go shopping or place it next to your computer if you do all your holiday shopping online. That way you don’t forget anyone on your list, and you keep yourself accountable to prevent overspending.

3. Be Creative

Lots of people will receive Starbucks gift cards this year, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you want to be memorable, get creative. As a resident, you can make a lot of your gifts, whether you bake cookies or bread. You can even order jelly beans in bulk, put them in inexpensive glass jars, and place one at each nurses’ station at the hospital.

Again, it’s truly the thought that counts, not the amount you spend. If certain people expect you to spend a lot of money because you’re a physician, then they don’t have your best interests in mind. Even if you’re an attending with a large salary, it’s important not to go over budget just because you feel like others expect you to give big. Generosity is certainly important, but not to the degree that it hurts your own bottom line.

4. Give Yourself Enough Time

The clock is ticking, and the countdown to the holidays is officially on. One of the best ways to save money is to give yourself enough time to plan. When you shop last minute, you have less time to compare prices and get the best deals.

So, start now. Make your list. Place a number next to each person on that list. Think of ways to save money by giving group gifts or creating something all your own. And, remember the most important tip of all: don’t worry about the Joneses or other people’s expectations of you. Give what you can, and determine your own level of generosity based on what you can afford.

What are your holiday gift giving plans this year? Do you have a go-to gift for your nurses or office staff?

Ryan Inman