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How To Navigate The Biggest Holiday Financial Stressors

The Season of Joy and Financial Stress

The holiday season is a time of joy, love, family, friends, and celebration. However, it can also be a time of financial stress, worry, and overspending. The holidays may also trigger emotions, which can lead to impulsive spending.

There is pressure to host and attend parties and festivities, buy gifts, travel to visit loved ones, and entertain out of town guests. All of this takes money, sometimes more money than we can afford.

In this blog, we will explore some of the holiday financial stressors and how to mindfully address them, so we can fully enjoy the season without putting ourselves in debt.

1. Gift Giving

Paradigm Shift

Buying gifts is one of the biggest financial costs of the holiday season. With that in mind, let’s do a paradigm shift:

One of the best gifts you can give those you love is to not be living above your means and creating debt. This includes not overspending on holiday gifts.

Let that sink in. I think generally as a society, we have become so caught up in buying holiday gifts, and often gifts we cannot afford, that we have normalized overspending and holiday debt.

Yet, come January the hard reality hits and you may be starting off the year in financial stress or distress. This is a gift to no one. People who love us, do not want us to be financially strained.

The Middle Ground

I am not saying we should not buy gifts during the holidays. I am saying that gifts we can both afford and that are expressions of love, serve the receiver and the giver. Additionally, once we get creative with rethinking how we give gifts, the possibilities are endless.

So, know your gift giving budget, (what you truly can afford), stick with it, and then have fun!

Gift Giving Ideas
  • 🎁 Gift an experience: a day at the museum, at the beach, at a park, or attend a local play. Know your gift recipient’s likes and choose accordingly. Precious time spent together, is priceless, yet quite affordable.
  • 🎁 Homemade Gifts: Everyone has talent- tap into yours. My friend Christina used to make her friends a delicious selection of baked goods. Every year we eagerly awaited her treats and felt her love conveyed through cookies.
  • 🎁 Shop Second Hand: I go to estate sales regularly and throughout the year as I find special gifts, I tuck them away for birthdays and the holidays. The items are beautiful, unique, and cost effective.
  • 🎁 Share the Cost: If someone on your list wants an item that is above your financial means-split the cost with someone.
  • 🎁 Agree to a Secret Santa gift exchange with family and friends and/or a price limit on gifts.
  • 🎁 Give to a non-profit in the recipient’s name. Choose an organization that has special meaning to the gift recipient.
No Physical Gifts

These are a few gift giving ideas but there are so many more. My advice is to give with love and stay in budget-a win/win for everyone.

This year my partner and I are taking a trip to New York City for the holidays- that is our gift to each other. The key is being clear about no physical gifts.

It was my partner who asked, “Is it okay if we don’t exchange gifts this Christmas?” My response, “Yes, it is and thank you for asking.” Our communication is clear and there are no hurt feelings. The memories we will make in The Big Apple will last a lifetime.

2. Travel Expenses

Traveling to visit family and friends during the holiday season can be costly.

Plan and take advantage of early pricing on airline tickets, hotels, and rental cars. My partner and I bought our New York airline tickets and reserved our hotel early at excellent prices.

Also, if possible be flexible on your travel dates, which can further reduce costs. We are traveling back from New York Christmas night, which reduced our airline ticket price substantially.  

Account for your travel expenses in your monthly budget. If you are charging items on a credit card, be certain to pay your bill in full every month. The astronomical interest rates on credit cards counteract any early planning savings.

3. Hosting Costs

If you are hosting a holiday party, dinner, or other festivity, do so within your budget. Set you budget and stick to it. If hosting costs are not monitored, they can quickly skyrocket.

Most guests are happy to bring a beverage or food item, let them.

As far as decorations go- simple can be beautiful and cost effective. I have purchased some of my favorite holiday decorations at estate sales and yard sales for pennies on the dollar.

4. Impulse Spending

The holiday season marketing is geared to make people impulse spend. Know that and adjust accordingly. You are in control of your spending, not the marketing agencies.

Again, make a shopping budget and stick to it.  It is satisfying to know you made holiday spending choices on your terms, with a clear mind, and were not manipulated by the over-the-top holiday marketing.

5. Social Expectations

During the holiday season there are often many social expectations. Be clear with yourself on what you can afford to do financially, emotionally, and physically. Oftentimes, we overextend ourselves during the holidays and can end up feeling run down or sick.

Communicate clearly with the people in your lives and be honest with yourself. It is okay to decline an invitation if you need the rest, cannot afford it, or both.

In Closing…

The holidays are a joyous time that can be interwoven with stress and sometimes sadness. Know that you can choose a holiday gift giving plan that shows your love and appreciation for the people in your lives while also showing yourself love and consideration.

Staying in budget and beginning the new year without holiday debt is a gift to everyone.

Happy Holidays,

Susan Howell, The MoneyMaestra

Susan Howell
Written by: Susan Howell, The MoneyMaestra.

Even though I grew up without money, I was able to retire at 50 based on my financial practices. I worked for the Federal Government for 26 years, with 6 of those years at the IRS and 20 at the Department of Justice, which included investigating many money-related cases.

I created MoneyMaestra to share what I know and to help people get on the path to Financial Freedom.

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