Fertility Budget During the Holidays | Fertility Out Loud

Navigating the Holiday Season on a Fertility Budget

By Abbe Feder, Fertility Coach

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor, or a mental health professional, for the most appropriate treatment.

If you’re experiencing infertility, you know undoubtedly that the holiday season can be anything but the most wonderful time of the year. There are so many pressures and considerations at play. You have family pressures, holiday events, travel stress, cycle calendars to manage, gifts to think about, the “right” (and “wrong”) things to eat, and figuring out whether or not you can drink. It’s enough to make anyone in the thick of family building to feel additionally crazy. 

To add to that list, the stress levels that come with paying for infertility treatments, plus all that money that gets spent in the name of the holidays, may become paralyzing. The bottom line is that the infertility experience can be massively draining on every emotion and every budget, and even more so between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. 

The only way through this season is to prioritize your own needs and invest time and energy into your well-being, self-care, your mental health, preservation, and replenishment. It is imperative to take concrete steps to find comfort and support, whenever and wherever you can. Even small things that may seem obvious can make a world of difference, things you would likely tell a loved one to do to feel better. But you may not remember these for yourself while in the thick of navigating an infertility journey. 

This pertains to gifts too. There is so much unnecessary pressure within families (families we’re born into, and chosen families) to go overboard on gifting and there simply needs to be a boundary. It isn’t fair that you, the one experiencing infertility and potentially going through treatment, may need to set the boundary. But it can also be a huge learning opportunity for those you’re teaching, and it may have a long term effect, long after your journey through fertility challenges has ended. 

Also, let’s not forget that for the holiday itself, the family events and gatherings may be the best part, and that can require time, money, and emotional preparedness. Prioritizing in this situation is crucial. Get clear on what would make you feel the best that you can, knowing that your number one priority is expanding your family, and maybe not all of the holiday traditions this year.

Talking To Your Family About Gift-Giving 

When it comes to talking with family about the infertility experience, I am a strong believer that honesty is the best policy, when the time is right. But I know that this sits differently with everyone, and can vary by age, culture, region, or simply for no reason at all. 

If you do not want to share your fertility struggles with family, you can certainly talk about finances and gifts while keeping your personal story private. There is an easy theme you can stick to that everything around the holidays becomes too much. Likely, if your family knows you’re going through treatment, they already have an idea that you’re strapped financially. But sometimes, much to our surprise, they don’t. Why not work together to keep it simple? 

That conversation could look like: “Mom and Dad and Sister and Brother and your significant others, I love you all so much and can’t wait to spend time together this December. Unlike last year, it’s been a challenging year for me and my partner, financially. My priority is seeing you and being with you, so that’s where I’d like to focus my limited funds. Gifts aren’t as much a priority to me this year, can we all agree on that?”

Or maybe it looks like: “Dad and Dad and Brother, I think the holidays have become out of control with spending and I’d be so much happier if we pooled together and decided as a family on a charity to donate to. We can each give what feels best for us and know we’re making a difference to someone else’s holiday season.”

Or it could even look like (if they’re in on the journey): “Our financial priorities this year are solely related to our fertility treatment. To that end, we’d love to ask for gifts in the form of any help you’re able to give directly to our journey, and we aren’t going to be able to go all out with gifts. But hey, we’re working on the greatest gift of all.”

Sometimes we are scared to have these conversations, and then it turns out that everyone was thinking it but no one wanted to say it. You can be the brave one! Plus, wherever we can add levity and humor on this journey we should, right?

Non “Traditional” Gift Ideas That Are Frugal (And May Even Help You Out in the Long Run!)

I do often contemplate why it becomes less acceptable at any given age to stop with macaroni necklaces and cardboard photo frames with a personalized picture inside. These thoughtful preschool gifts were really the way to go! Those homemade items have the most heart and come with a gesture of pure love. 

In a study on the psychology of gift giving, researchers found that “people often give gifts that reflect their own desires and motivations rather than considering the preferences of the recipient. Moreover, gift givers tend to focus more on the ta-da! moment when the chocolate fountain emerges from the avalanche of packing peanuts rather than on whether the recipient actually wants, will use or even has space for it.” If we can consider gift giving to fertility patients in particular, this could not be more true. 

There are a number of ways to give impactfully (and inexpensively):

The Gift of Service 

My own personal love-language is acts of service, which is defined as “doing activities that make life easier or more enjoyable for the other person, such as running errands, picking up the dry cleaning, doing the grocery shopping, or other household chores.” You better believe that when I was paying for my own (out of pocket) infertility treatment I gave lots of acts of service. But I was also moved tremendously by those who gave them to me. Service is time, and time is valuable. This is such a wonderful way to help your loved ones. 

Only Give Once

There is something fresh and fun about making a “Secret Santa” (or “Hanukkah Harry” as we call it in my family) for the holidays. Instead of gifting to everyone in the family, each person picks one name from the pool of people and chooses something special for that one person. It seems so meaningful and intentional to gift this way, as opposed to buying unnecessarily for all. 

Make a Memory

Isn’t memory making what the holidays are all about? When going through my own in vitro fertilization (IVF) journey, I’d get so angry with my family for things they said that hurt, or for not understanding my perspective. Then I’d isolate myself from family gatherings because of the frustration. Yet I was trying to create my own children to then make memories with the family I was frustrated with. The irony is thick.  

I love the idea of coming up with a fun experience to share with the intention of making a memory:

  • Recreate a special meal where everyone can participate with a different dish. Maybe it harkens back to childhood, or a family trip you want to take.
  • Plan a game night with dress-up and fancy snacks, creating a fun holiday experience while keeping it reasonably priced.
  • Have everyone over to watch something similar to an experience you’ve had in the past and relive (or recreate) some of the memories you’d made in years prior. 

Memories are the goal. Working intentionally to create them is actually the best gift, and can be mostly free. 

Small Ways to Find Some Extra Spending Money (or extra IVF money!) 

Your FSA

Remember that if you’re lucky enough to have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can use your FSA for fertility treatment (with the exception of surrogacy costs). The IRS includes IVF-related expenses from storage fees (for eggs, embryos or sperm) to medicine, retrievals and transfers. As the holidays are toward the end of the year, you’ll want to use those up while you can. Sometimes they carry over into the next year, but why not get the most for your money sooner rather than later? 

Egg/Sperm/Embryo Storage

If not offered, ask your clinic if you can pay your storage fees monthly, instead of annually. That way, as soon as you use (or discard or donate) what you have stored, you can discontinue payment. If the clinic requires annual payment, ask if you can be reimbursed on a prorated basis once you have used (or discarded or donated) what you have stored.

Medication Price Savings

Medication prices vary from pharmacy to pharmacy. You are not required to use the pharmacy your clinic recommends if you can find a less expensive option. Note that certain health insurance plans require you to use a specific pharmacy, but if that’s not the case, doing some research to find the least expensive choice may be well worth it.

IVF Grants & No-Interest Loans

There are a multitude of charitable grants and scholarships out there, as well as no-interest loans. Resolve, The National Infertility Association, dedicates a page on their website to some of these essential resources, which can be found here.

What is hard and most important to remember around the holidays is that the intention is joy. It may be an unpopular opinion from a financial planner, but I tell my clients to have the chai latte if they’re craving it, buy the ticket to the show if it will spark joy, and take the trip to see the family members or friends when they can. So much joy is robbed from us as we navigate fertility issues, it’s worth spending a little here or there to allow for the happiness where we can. And at the end of the day, no one will remember that you decided not to “gift” one year. They will remember that you put everything you could into creating a family for you and them to share in love and laughter. 

Find more articles like this one on WeAreRobyn.co

Fertility Out Loud