The Christmas season is finally here. Even though we like to think of the holidays as a time of fun and family, the truth is that there is also a great deal of stress attached to this time of the year. From entertaining to buying gifts to travel, the stresses on your budget can cause anxiety and worry during a time that is ostensibly about happiness and family togetherness. This time, before you succumb to financial stress, considering these points may just help you enjoy the holidays more.
Why are You Feeling Financial Stress?
While some may be feeling financial stresses due to economic realities, such as job loss or some sort of unforeseen financial catastrophe, there are many of us who experience self-imposed stress during the holidays. Some of the reasons that you might be feeling avoidable financial stress can include social expectations, commitments, competition, materialism and lack of planning.
You might feel that your friends and family expect you to entertain them. In order to do this “in style”, you might overrun your budget. Even worse, you might feel as though you are in a competition with someone else to provide a “better” holiday experience. Even if you are only in competition with yourself, in an attempt to exceed last year’s holiday experience, your drive can lead you into unnecessary spending.
Another problem is that we often place too much emphasis on material things as a means of happiness. We want these things for ourselves, but sometimes we also get carried away with making Christmas “better” for our children by going overboard with gift-giving. And, of course, without planning out a gift budget, an entertaining budget and other expenses, you will find that you have not saved up enough to pay for everything without debt, adding to the stress you feel with regard to your finances.
Tips for Reducing Financial Stress
The first thing you need to do is identify why you are feeling stressed out during the holiday season. If it is due to social expectations or materialism or something similar, you need to take a step back and realize that it’s okay to live within your means. You don’t need to try and impress anyone.
Set a budget -
Review your earnings and expenses, and then decide how much you’re willing to spend on holiday gifts, food and other items.
Consider making a list and assigning each item a specific dollar amount. This will help you overcome the temptation to overspend.
Plan your shopping –
Whether you’re headed to the grocery store or braving the crowds at the mall, know what you intend to buy and who it’s for. Sticking to your list will also help keep you from buying unnecessary items and prevent overspending. It’s easy to make impulse purchases with all the eye candy in stores this time of the year, but you won’t fall prey to these consumer tricks when you know what you need.
Don’t buy if you can’t afford it -
A 2018 report from investment management firm T. Rowe Price and CNBC showed that many gift-happy parents take drastic measures to make their kids' holiday wishes come true, with 59 percent saying they spent more than they should have and 48 percent taking on debt. One in 10 of those dipped into their emergency funds in order to cover holiday expenses, and 4 percent have withdrawn from retirement savings. If you can’t afford to buy your children something on their wish lists without taking out a loan or borrowing from another account, the best option is to not buy it — it’s okay to say no. Your children will survive. Shortchanging your savings or going into debt is ultimately more detrimental to your family than skipping a few presents.
Get creative with gift giving -
You can give thoughtful gifts while spending a fraction of the cost. If you’re crafty, handmade presents are extremely thoughtful. And if you’re lacking in artistic abilities, you can always give the gift of your time. Cooking someone a meal, giving new parents a night out while you babysit, or offering to clean someone’s house are gifts that recipients will love and will cost you nothing
Remember what the season is all about
It’s easy to be swept up in the consumerism of the season but remember that it isn’t about money and materialism. Focusing on its religious purpose or enjoying time with your loved ones will keep you from stressing over less important things.
With a little planning and creativity, it’s possible to get through the holidays and avoid debt or wiping out your savings account. And you’ll feel even less stress when you reach January in good financial shape.
So, when it comes to holiday giving, focus on what you can do – not on what you can’t do.