5 ways to decompress from holiday financial stress

If you experienced financial stress during the holidays, then learn how to recover from the overspending and over-stressing with these five tips.

If the excitement of spending for the holidays burned a hole in your wallet and burned you out, your financial health may be causing you major stress in the new year. Whether you overspent on holiday gifts or drove yourself into debt covering holiday travel expenses, you still have opportunities to exercise some damage control. Now is the perfect time to take a close look at your financial standing and clean up the holiday spending aftermath.

A man and woman stand in front of a Christmas tree holding a tangle of Christmas lights.

Here are five ways to recover from holiday financial stress:

1. Assess your new debt load

Almost three-quarters of 2023 holiday shoppers are planning on paying for holiday gifts with a credit card, according to a survey from NerdWallet. Talk about financial stress during the holidays! If you were one of these shoppers (join the club), it is important to review your newly acquired debt and put together a payoff plan.

Gaining clarity on the state of your finances early in the year can help prevent procrastination (time flies, and you don’t want to be carrying that high balance or feeling holiday financial stress when Labor Day rolls around). Consider this new debt a cost or expense of the holiday season that needs to be paid sooner rather than later. Kick off the new year with a bang—and not post-holiday financial stress.

2. Review possible gift returns

If you received a gift that didn’t meet your expectations, fish out that gift receipt. You may be able to take the items back where they came from for store credit and pick out something you really need. This will help you save money on this year’s planned purchases because you won’t have to shell out your savings or charge to credit (thank you, grandma and neighbors). Exchanging unwanted gifts for something you’ll truly use will also relieve any guilt over returning a present. Aren’t you feeling that holiday financial stress just melt away?

A cashier at a store hands a woman a receipt.

3. Send in all rebates

Many big-ticket items, including computers, televisions, and music systems, were sold with a rebate offer during the holiday season. Make sure you’ve taken full advantage of these offers so you’re getting the cash back you deserve. If you didn’t get around to sending in all the rebate information in the middle of holiday excitement, now’s the time to help prevent financial stress during the holidays. It’s true that many offers do have expiration dates. On the other hand, retailers are making it easier to send in rebates via smartphone, which can be helpful if you’re on the go in the new year. Sending in all rebate materials early means you’ll have extra cash to pay off debt or simply restore your savings account.

74% of holiday shoppers expect to use credit cards to pay for their gifts in 2023.

NerdWallet survey

4. Take advantage of post-holiday sales

The last thing you want to think about after taking down your seasonal decor is buying more holiday decorations. But holiday decorations and Christmas trees conveniently go on clearance right after the holidays. Buying them on sale now means you won’t have to pay full price next year, which may also help you reduce future holiday financial stress.

A shop window with the letters “SALE” hanging inside. There are different pieces of jewelry adorning the letters.

You’ll also find plenty of markdowns on popular items in the new year. In January, for example, you may see discounts on fitness equipment, open-box electronics (tech that has been opened and returned), and linens, according to a coupon website. If these and other discounted items are in your budget for the new year, buy them now while deals are available to save money on new purchases. Find a deal so good you just can’t pass it up? Make the purchase, put the gift away for next holiday season, and cross one extra person off your shopping list. You might be surprised how much you can prevent financial stress over the holidays with this tip. 

When shopping post-holiday sales, consider using a rewards checking account to get the most out of your spending. With Discover® Cashback Debit, for example, you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 To help reduce your financial stress over the holidays even further, sign up to have your cashback bonus automatically deposited into a Discover Online Savings Account, where it can earn a high interest rate to help you achieve your financial goals.

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5. Set three-month budget goals

Starting off the year with short-term goals can make managing your holiday financial stress much easier. Want to learn the basics of budgeting? It’s all about baby steps. Setting a three-month budget goal can help you stay focused. Start tracking all of your expenses, and create a realistic spending plan for the rest of winter. By cutting back on non-essentials—dining out, entertainment, new clothes—funds can be put toward paying down debt and stepping up your savings.

As the new year unfolds, review your budget on a regular basis, and adjust for any increases in expenses, new credit card debt, or new loans.

If you went beyond your budget this holiday season, use this opportunity to review your finances and make some tweaks to your spending habits. You’ll be on a healthy financial track, and feel good about it, before you know it.

The next holiday season doesn’t have to be as stressful as this one. To keep debt out of your plans, check out these debt-free holiday tips.

1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), online sports betting and internet gambling transactions, and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal®, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple Pay® is a trademark of Apple Inc. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc. Samsung Pay is a registered trademark of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Google, Google Pay, and Android are trademarks of Google LLC.

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