Keep Holiday Stress Away and Enjoy the Season
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The holidays are about friends, family and good cheer, but trying to do too much — or spend too much — can leave you feeling like the Grinch. In a 2016 Experian survey, 55% of respondents said their finances were a major source of holiday stress.
Keeping stress at bay during the holiday season all comes down to how you approach it. With the right plan, you can make it through the holidays with your sanity and your wallet intact.
1. Start by identifying your holiday stress triggers.
A helpful way to combat holiday stress is figuring out what it is that sends you into panic mode. In the Experian survey, for example, 62% of those surveyed said failing to plan a holiday budget detracted from their holiday enjoyment. For you, trying to pick up gifts for everyone on your list, getting all the decorations up or sending out countless holiday cards may be your biggest stressor.
Thinking about what gives you the most grief during the holidays can help you find a less stressful way to deal with it. For instance, if you fret over planning the menu for the family dinner you’re hosting, you could switch things up and make it a potluck instead. Or if mailing out cards is a hassle, you could opt for e-cards this year. Making one small change could bring down your holiday stress levels in a big way.
2. Prioritize your time.
When there are parties, sales and special events going on during the holidays, it’s tempting to try to do all the things on offer. But, that’s a sure way to wear yourself out.
Instead of running to and fro, focus on what’s most important to you and what kind of holiday traditions you’d most like to cultivate. Going to parties is fun, but you may have a better time sharing hot cocoa with your closest friends around a bonfire. If you have kids, hosting a holiday movie marathon at home can be a more relaxing way to spend an afternoon than fighting the crowds at the mall.
Blocking out time for specific activities on your calendar can help you be more mindful of how you’re using your time. You can pencil in time for shopping, decorating, mailing packages or being social. While you’re at it, don’t forget to schedule some lazy days where you don’t have anything planned — and add in some time for yourself to simply unwind. Even if it’s only for an hour or two once a week, you’ll appreciate a moment to detach yourself from the holiday hustle and bustle.
3. Plan your budget early and streamline your shopping.
Shopping for gifts without a budget can amp up your holiday stress, especially if you end up with debt because you’ve overspent. Having a budget in place can help you plan your gift buying more strategically. Start by thinking about what you can realistically afford to spend. If you don’t have any cash set aside for the holidays, for instance, will you cover the purchases out of your monthly cash flow or use a rewards credit card for gifts?
If you plan to pay with cash, you’ll need to review your budget to see how much money you’ll have left to dedicate to holiday purchases after your regular expenses are paid. If you’re planning to use credit, you’ll need to think about whether you only want to charge what you can pay in full when your statement comes in January, or if you’re comfortable carrying a balance.
Once you have a number in mind, you can break that down further, based on how much you plan to spend on each person you’re shopping for. But don’t just start buying gifts blindly. Do your research first to see which retailers have the items you want to buy at the best prices. Consider what kind of rewards you could earn with your credit card. If you have a cash back rewards card, for example, your rewards could be applied as a statement credit against your purchases.
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Remember to look for free shipping if you’re buying online and check around for promo codes or coupons on the things you plan to buy. The more savings you can generate, the less holiday stress you may feel.