Photo: James Lightbown/Getty Images

The holidays are an expensive time for everyone—holiday travel, gifts, food, booze and festive clothes can break the bank for even the most frugal. But December can be especially financially brutal for single people, says Carey Purcell, writing for the वाशिंगटन पोस्ट. This is in large part because single people are generally shouldering their living expenses alone, rather than splitting them with a partner, which obviously reduces their disposable income at holiday-time. But, as Purcell points out, it’s also due to differing expectations for singles than for partnered people.

If you’re unmarried you might, for example, be expected to travel to your siblings’ or parents’ homes rather than them coming to you. Couples with kids have an extra trump card in that they can claim traveling as a family is too expensive or difficult, and so shift that time-and-money burden on their single family members.

Now, not every single is a low earner and not every partnered person is a high earner (though on a macro level that है somewhat true; Purcell points out that on average single people make less than marrieds and rate themselves as less financially secure.) But there are ways to protect your wallet if you’re single and don’t want to tap in to your January grocery budget to get through December. For some ideas on how to enjoy the season but stay in the black, I reached out to Bella DePaulo, the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After

Give (Free) Experiences Instead of Things

Dr. DePaulo suggests arranging free or low-cost experiences for your family during the holidays: “For example, I live near a seal sanctuary. An annual outing there could turn into a nice tradition and it doesn’t cost a thing. I bet there are possibilities like that in many (though perhaps not all) places.” I like to keep my eye out for free days at museums or free tickets to concerts and snag them as gifts—they cost me nothing but effort and still allow me to spend time with my family and friends doing something special. I’m still nominally the “host.” (I treat for hot chocolate.)

Ask Everyone to Come to You

If you don’t want to travel, you can offer to host, but that obviously comes with its own financial obligations—and you may find the plane ticket to be cheaper than champagne and dinner for everyone over the course of the celebration. In the long run, it’s probably best to have a frank conversation with your loved ones about what everyone can and can’t afford so that no one feels overly burdened. After all, you may find that that you prefer to travel, even if it costs you a bit more: If you don’t check a bag, you can’t bring too many gifts.

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