5 ways to decompress from holiday financial stress

Now’s the time to recover from the overspending, and over-stressing, of the holidays.

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.

Don’t let holiday financial stress linger after the decorations are down

Here are five ways to recover from holiday financial stress:

1. Assess your new debt load

Discover’s 2018 holiday shopping survey showed that credit cards were expected to be the most popular payment method during the holiday season, with 38 percent of survey respondents planning to charge most of their holiday gifts to credit. 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’re wondering what grandma was thinking sending an XXL sweater from a department store after you dropped weight this year, or why your neighbors thought a calendar for the year ending in a matter of days was a good idea, 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. Feeling that holiday financial stress just melt away?

You can reduce holiday financial stress by returning gifts you don't need

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 are getting the cash back you deserve. If you didn’t get around to sending in all of the rebate information in the middle of holiday excitement, now’s the time to help prevent holiday financial stress. Many offers do have expiration dates. On the plus side, 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.

Credit cards were expected to be the most popular way to pay for gifts during the 2018 holiday season.

Discover’s annual holiday shopping 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.

Making a three-month plan can help you overcome holiday financial stress

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 RetailMeNot, 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 of your shopping list.

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 holiday financial stress 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.

5. Set three-month budget goals

Starting off the year with short-term goals can make managing your holiday financial stress much easier. Budgeting is 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 make adjustments 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.

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), 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, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc.