Conquer Financial Stress This Holiday Season

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on December 3, 2018

As the holidays loom, are you stressing out about all the gifts you have to buy and how much they'll cost?
If so, you’re not alone. Stress over holiday spending affects most of us.
It’s not just the money you might spend on a new wide-screen TV or iPhone for your spouse. It can be expensive to host holiday dinners for your extended family or buy a new dress for that holiday party.

Not to mention holiday travel.
How do you keep your cool, enjoy the holidays and stick to your budget? Our Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine team shares some top tips.
1. Communicate
One of the best things you can do is to sit down with your family and communicate, by phone or Facebook, well before the holidays and explore ground rules.
This can include how much you'll spend on toys for the kids and clothes for family members, as well as travel and food expenses. Decide where you'll stay, where you'll open presents and who's bringing what.
Have a dialogue ahead of time so people aren't disappointed at the end of the day; otherwise, you could start the new year with a lot of debt you didn't plan.
2. Set a limit
Knowing your limits is also important. Take the time to sit down and decide what you and your family can afford.
It's OK to say no to others if you can't attend an event. Sometimes it involves disappointing people, but it's OK for your family to have your own priorities and to recognize that money is tight.
3. Remember the true meaning of the holidays
Most of all, don't lose sight of what really matters during this special time of year.

Holidays are about fellowship and spending time together. Prioritize that and not the gifts. Plan ahead so you can be present with family members and not spend your time in the kitchen.
4. Choose gifts wisely
Give gifts that are meaningful and convey love for that person. That's what important.
Also consider buying nice things from consignment shops or Goodwill, especially if they are for kids who are still growing.
Often if you have a story -- 'I went to four Goodwills to find this just for you' -- people will know you cared. Often the story is what they will remember most.
5. Learn to say no
What about the constant drumbeat of requests for donations at holiday time?
Again, it's OK to say no. Many of us are asked to give money to causes that are important to our co-workers or others, but there are lots of ways we can act charitably that don't involve money.

Give the gift of your time reading to others or driving them to a doctor's appointment, for instance. Give thoughtfully and don't feel guilty.
6. Be mindful of temptation
A word about alcohol: Not only is it expensive, it can cause a lot of problems for those who can't resist temptation. Be aware of how much you have around. If you need more, you can always go buy it.
If you stick to your financial plan, you'll surely enjoy the holidays more. And you won't enter the new year feeling anxious about your finances.