Keep Money Stress to a Minimum During the Holidays
The holiday season is always busy with tasks for getting prepared for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and if you’re not careful, stress levels can go through the roof. Many people say that this year is more stressful than usual because of tighter finances. After the last two years of lockdowns and travel restrictions, people are anxious to spend time with extended family members they may not have seen for a while. This is a good time to set some boundaries financially to help stay within your budget, and not have remorse and money stress to start the new year. Here are some ways to start.
Create a Budget for Christmas and Stick to It
Start by deciding how much you can comfortably spend for shopping and gifts that won’t blow out your budget. Christmas is the one time of the year when we can easily get carried away with emotional spending, especially when everyone around us is spending extravagantly. Sticking to a budget will help you stay on track and not feel stressed about how much you are spending.
Don’t Let Others Make You Feel Obligated
There will always be some family and friends who have more money than you do, or who love to buy expensive gifts. We tend to feel like we have to match what they spend on us, or we think we have to buy someone a gift who is giving us one, even if they aren’t on our list. This is where having a pre-determined budget will help you if you have the fortitude to stick to it, and it may require having a conversation about limits on spending and gifts. Here are some ideas for how to do that.
- You may decide to limit gifts with extended family. If there is still enough time before Christmas, you can talk to them or send a text or email to let them know that you are limiting the gifts you give this year. Let them know what you treasure most is the time you spend with them and you are looking forward to celebrating the holidays with them.
- If you’ve waited too late for that conversation or some people want to buy gifts no matter what, then impose a limit to how much is spent. This will help you stay within your limits and eliminate any regret about how much you spend.
- If you have a group of people you need to buy for, get the group to do it as a Secret Santa so each person only has to buy one gift. The group can set a spending frame – minimum and maximum – so no one feels slighted. A Secret Santa gift exchange can be a lot of fun and it helps everyone’s budget since each person only buys for the person whose name they draw.
Don’t Be Drawn in by Emotional Shopping
The spirit of the holidays can put you into a festive mood and your emotions can drive your spending if you’re not careful. Be aware of the trap your emotions can set and before you leave the house, check yourself to see how you’re feeling. The best way to stick to a budget and is to not let your emotions override your good sense. How do you do that?
- Shop only when you’re feeling good and are well rested. Don’t go if you’re feeling any anxiety or stress. Don’t shop on an empty stomach, that can make you feel cranky pretty fast.
- Don’t think something is better just because it costs more. Don’t try to keep up with what other people are spending and don’t get caught in the mind trap of thinking a present is inferior because it doesn’t have a high price tag.
- Plan times to spend with family and friends that are focused on having fun together and celebrating the season.
Boundaries Can Help Eliminate Stress and Overspending
The holiday season is full of excitement and joy but it can also bring anxiety and stress, making it hard to enjoy. Heightened emotions make it difficult to set financial boundaries for yourself but doing so will help you keep within budget and limit the stress of overspending. When you do, you will enjoy the season even more knowing that you will be in good financial health when it is over.
Jeffrey Ressler owns a boutique, full-service accounting firm in Boca Raton, Florida that provides individualized financial services, expert tax preparation, tax planning for individuals and companies, and finding solutions to IRS problems.