Reducing Financial Stress During the Holidays

by Miranda Marquit · 26 comments

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. (Editor Chimes In: In fact, a clutter-free life, a simple life that is, will prove to always be better.). Simple holiday entertaining, as long as it’s thoughtfully prepared, can be just as good, if not better than an expensive party.

Same with gifts. If you can’t afford expensive presents, opt for small, thoughtful gifts. Your loved ones will understand. It is possible to enjoy life without spending a great deal. Here are some other things to consider when reducing financial stress during the holidays:

  • Be realistic about your holiday budget, and stay within it.
  • Don’t add to your debt. This can be a huge source of financial stress. Even if you don’t pay it down during the holiday season, at least try to avoid digging a deeper hole. Put the credit card away.
  • Take a few minutes for yourself. Sometimes, what you need is to take care of yourself. Do some physical activity, or take time for proper relaxation. A break can help keep you focused and help you avoid lashing out at those around you.
  • Get organized. Make a list of all of the gifts you expect to buy, and keep track of sales and coupons so that you can take advantage of deals as they arise. This also applies to decor, party supplies and holiday food.
  • Make a plan. Start planning for next year. Note how much you spend this year, and begin setting money aside in February or March for a holiday fund so that you are less stressed next year. Knowing that you are learning from this experience can ease your mind in some cases.

If you are experiencing financial stress due to economic factors, remember that there is help available. Be honest with your friends and family, and gratefully accept help that they offer. Check with local community charities or your church congregation to see if there are programs that can help you through the holidays. You may need to donate some of your time in order to benefit, but that is a small price to pay for a little financial peace of mind.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Lorraine says:

    I think it’s different for everybody, but during the holidays for me since I figure out what to get everyone. I’ve been responsible with spending withing my means and making sure billls come first, so it does not stressed me out.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    Planning well in advance always helps me feel less stressed when it comes to “crunch time”. I take mental tabs throughout the year when someone mentions something they want or need. If it’s in my budget, I’ll jot it down and start looking for a good price. So much easier than doing everything at once.

  • SpeedyLoanSearch says:

    We have also banished our credit cards, it was quite funny on my last trip to the USA & paying cash for ‘everything’ was very difficult for some establishments and impossible to hire a car for cash, indirectly we have created this economy and it is up to us to stop the madness and get back to what’s real! Your article also reminded me of a Christmas we had when our kids were 9 & 11, instead of wrapped gifts under the tree we took a family holiday as our gift to the 4 of us, we did not buy one present for each other to unwrap, we took the kids on a sleigh ride on Christmas Eve and tobogganing on Christmas day. For many many years the kids would say it was their best Christmas ever!

  • joe says:

    I know my weakness is not ‘well organized”. and it make my financial management in problem everytime.
    thanks for great post.

  • Sue says:

    I have read a book about Gov’t Grants and I hope it could help those who are having problems financially or those who want to put up a business in the future. It’s very helpful. It’s called:
    How to start or grow business using government grant money – Directory of grant funding programs

  • Becky says:

    I love the idea of shopping all year long instead of last minute. Ever since I finished Anthony Manganiello’s latest book, “The Debt-Free Millionaire: Winning Strategies to Creating Great Credit and Retiring Rich,” I have been trying to think of ways to not have to go into debt- meaning I have been trying to pay off all of my debt and avoid getting into anymore debt. It seems that buying gifts all year would help me solve this problem. Too late this year, but will keep in mind for next year.

  • Lulu says:

    I think if you plan in advance and stick to your plan then the Christmas holidays do not need to be stressful. I make a budget and do not go over it so I have never felt pressured to spend massive amounts at this time.

    I guess I don’t make a big deal out of since my family is away (in another country) from me and I tell my friends not to expect anything…but then give them little surprises.

  • John DeFlumeri Jr says:

    With the financial tightness, comes the embarrassment of the money restrictions, and you may not be as sociable as previously. It adds up to a lot of pessimism and gloominess.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  • marci says:

    I think part of the problem is ‘expectations’ exceed reality.
    There is not enough time nor money to meet everyone’s wants/needs –
    so one has to be a little more realistic about expectations and what there is actually time for and money for.

    For me – I get Thanksgiving Day off, Christmas Day off and New Year’s Day off and all those withOUT pay. I work the rest – and I work overtime every week. Being a single person household, there is only so much time that can be devoted to the extra decorating, baking, visiting, etc. and still get the household chores done.

    I’ve learned to be more realistic about how much “free” time I have and plan my holiday doing around that factor. I learned a long time ago that I am not “superwoman” and I no longer try to be. Much easier on me.

  • Craig says:

    Plan ahead and get all your shopping done ahead of time, it will save you time and stress. Last thing you want to do is going last minute trying to find a gift and finding out its sold out.

  • Financial Samurai says:

    Surprised people get stressed during the holidays. Isn’t the holidays a time to relax and spend time with family? I don’t find that stressful at all.

    If people are stressed during the holidays, are they EXTRA stressed during the non-holidays?

    • Daniel says:

      I think it’s the build-up that kills people. Before, everyone goes shopping and worries. On the holidays, we relax, stay home, and enjoy our time with our family (unless we are the ones cooking.)

      • Financial Samurai says:

        Donno Daniel. I get really excited about the build up to holidays. Like the week before going on vacation, it’s so EXCITING. Almost as exciting as the holiday itself. πŸ™‚

        • MoneyNing says:

          You probably aren’t in charge of buying everybody’s gifts πŸ™‚

          Can you imagine needing to buy 25 gifts, all “supposed” to be thoughtful in a few week’s time while trying not to spend too much?

          That is stress.

          • Financial Samurai says:

            Hmm, I suppose that would be stressful. 25 gifts? Wow. That means you’ll get a lot of gifts in return. Sounds pretty equal to me. πŸ™‚

            Frankly, I’m just going to get everybody these SWEET “Financial Samurai – Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries” t-shirts and long sleeve shirts. They’re gonna accept them and love them. haha

          • MoneyNing says:

            That’s another way to look at it.

            I’d have to say that your family is lucky someone else is getting them gifts since they probably got your t-shirts the day you started your blog and don’t need ANOTHER one. πŸ™‚

    • Miranda Marquit says:

      The problem is that too many people don’t actually relax. They get more wound up about all they feel like they have to do.

  • Miranda says:

    Daniel makes a great point. We can be financially stressed during the holidays, and then get another dose afterward when we look at the bills. Hopefully planning ahead (and shopping throughout the year like Marci) can help reduce the credit card usage. And I like Mandy’s take. Christmas should really be for the kids anyway.

  • Mandy says:

    This year, our family has decided to just skip all the gift giving among adults. We are doing pot luck at Christmas eve, so no one needs to buy anything, even for the hosts. We will help clean up after, and make sure everything is returned to normal condition.

    We will still buy gifts for the children though so they aren’t affected, but it “destresses” the whole holiday season for us tremendously.

  • marci says:

    If you’d shop earlier in the year – all year long – you could be done and have everything wrapped up by October…. and pay cash for it all. Mail out packages the first of Nov.
    Then all you’d have to worry about ‘doing’ is the baking and decorating πŸ™‚

    You’d be surprised how much that de-stresses one πŸ™‚

    • MoneyNing says:

      You are living proof that buying throughout the year works. I bet that the gifts are all much more carefully thought out too since you had more time to think about what to buy.

      • marci says:

        Some are handmade also – not all bought.
        Need time for sewing and crafting and canning and baking – can’t
        all be last minute πŸ™‚

  • Daniel says:

    Does the stress come during the holidays? Or a few weeks later when the credit card bill comes?

    • MoneyNing says:

      I think it’s different for everybody, but it’s during the holidays for me since I have to figure out what to get everyone (luckily, I’ve been responsible with spending so the bills that come later haven’t stressed me out).

      It is better this year when I’m not at work with 50 people anymore, because there’s less gift exchanges but there’s still family members etc.

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