The holiday season is meant to be a time of joyful celebration, but it also brings a slew of financial expectations that can feel burdensome to many. In fact, American Psychological Association (APA) research has shown that there are four main holiday stressors: difficult interactions with family, managing a multitude of expectations, gift-giving and – you guessed it – finances. If you find yourself facing one or more of these concerns, the Holiday Stress Resource Center may offer useful tips for managing all four. Here, though, we’ll dig into what you can do to lessen stress and anxiety about money this holiday season.
Seven Strategies to Implement when Your Holiday Stress Levels Rise
Financial matters can cause stress at any time of the year, but that stress can build to peak levels with holiday gift buying, travel and entertaining. Regain control and minimize your stress using these seven tactics.
Track Your Spending
Keeping a daily list of what you’ve spent is an effective method for reducing financial overwhelm and ensuring your holiday spending doesn’t get away from you. We also recommend useful money tracking apps for your phone, iPad, and computer, like Mint.
Make Just One Financial Decision at a Time
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you consider all your holiday spending needs together, and this overwhelm can compromise your ability to make good decisions. Try to space out your spending decisions, thoughtfully and intentionally making just one at a time.
Know Your Personal Financial Stressors and Make a Plan to Combat Them
When you feel the pressure mounting, stop and ask yourself which financial scenarios are causing you stress. Identify them, write them down and consider how to tackle them before they get the better of you this season. For instance, if you worry about spending too much money on family gifts, brainstorm ways to reduce expenses while still making your loved ones feel special. If your biggest concern is mounting credit card debt, call your credit card company and set up an actionable payment plan. Identify whatever steps help control your financial stress, then write out your plan and stick to it.
Cope with Your Stress in Healthy Ways
It’s human nature to find coping mechanisms to deal with uncomfortable emotions, and financial stress can cause some people to turn to things like smoking, drinking, emotional eating or gambling to numb the stress. Be honest with yourself about whether you are prone to negative coping mechanisms and work to replace them with something healthy like exercising, journaling or meditation. If you feel you need additional help, speak with a mental health professional before the problem worsens.
Avoid Tempting Yourself
It’s nearly impossible to avoid all tempting situations during the holidays, but if you know it’s difficult to visit the mall without spending more than you should, don’t give yourself the opportunity. If you are easily prone to clicking the checkout button when shopping online, give yourself a day to finalize the checkout process. Holiday shopping is a tradition for many, and it can represent a special activity with family and friends. So, if you feel compelled to participate, control impulse spending by leaving your credit cards at home, only carrying the cash you can afford to spend and being mindful of online spending.
Remember the True Meaning of the Season
It can be difficult to remember the true sentiment of the holiday season with rampant commercialism surrounding you. If societal expectations about gift-giving are causing you to think about making decisions that harm your financial health, force yourself to stop, take a breath, and remember that family, friends, and relationships are far more important and lasting than material objects.
Lean on Your Support System
Having a supportive spouse, friend or coworker who understands your financial goals can make all the difference in sticking to them during the holidays. Lean on the people you trust to help you make smart decisions when the stress of the season creeps in.
The holidays are a special time, but they can also induce a special kind of financial stress. Use the above strategies to guard against common stressors, protect your financial health and focus on joy this holiday season.
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