The holiday season is approaching, meaning holiday induced financial stress is right around the corner. Having a sound spending plan before the season starts can reduce the fretfulness that follows. Holiday stress usually surrounds three areas, money, time, and energy.
Many of us tend to spend out of habit, and worry when the bill comes in January. This behavior pattern happens year after year, you spend out of obligation, guilt, or social pressure, and then you are greeted with bills and regret in the new year. Why? We tend to justify our habits based on the idea of joy. If you buy more gifts, decorations, and extravagant items your family will be happier, right? Not necessarily. While the presents are nice, the financial anxiety surrounding it can make the holiday season harder for everyone.
When focused on holiday prep, your time for other things also decreases. Most people work up to the last minute, with only one or two days of actual celebration. While you are out shopping, you are taking time away from your family. This cycle of work and shopping is physically and emotionally draining. Once the holiday arrives, your energy and money is depleted. You may feel overwhelmed and exhausted, unable to enjoy what you have been working towards for months.
So how do you break the behavioral patterns and social pressure while still having a happy and successful holiday season? These 3 tips can turn your stress into cheerfulness in no time!
A good place to start reducing financial stress is after the holidays have ended. You are aware of the mistakes you made with your budget and what you want to change for next year. Start by planning in January which gives you 12 months to prepare. Create a budget for each of the 12 months that equal your overall spending goal. A simple January purchase can be clearance priced such as wrapping paper and lights. If the holidays are close, still divide your time by your budget to keep on track.
Purchases and Payment:
If you find it difficult to stick to a budget and are easily tempted, the way you pay for items can make a big difference. Paying with cash can make it easier to keep track of what you have spent. Also, keeping a hand-written journal of what you have purchased and who or what it was for can remind you of what you have and what you can still spend. It is easy to forget the lights or toys you have bought when you are purchasing throughout the year. The mall, Amazon, or other shopping opportunities can be tempting. Make sure you have a plan and a purpose for your holiday spending. Instead of just shopping for the sake of shopping, make plans with family and friends in social settings. Looking at Christmas lights, going to parades, or having a neighborhood potluck are often more fulfilling than a night spent at the mall.
The list of people to buy presents for tends to grow as you get older. Between family, friends, and work, it can become pricey quickly. An easy way to make sound decisions on what to spend is to start asking what people want. Often people will be happy to give you suggestions or even relate to your present buying struggles. Focusing the gift giving on the children can sometimes alleviate the pressure of buying gifts for a potentially growing list. Also, look towards experiences instead of material goods. Having a fun activity creates a lasting gift and something to look forward to once the holiday excitement ends. Family vacations can be fun and make sticking to a budget easier. For friends and colleagues, a nice dinner or creative activity can extend the holiday celebrations without breaking your bank. Experiences and meaningful gifts can create lasting memories.
The holidays are stressful, but with a sound financial plan and a positive attitude, the joy can be shared by all. Focus on the things that truly matter, spend time with your loved ones, and indulge in the happiness that creates. Although they are right around the corner, it is never too late to create a budget friendly celebration!