Unwrap a Holiday Free of Financial Stress

Sheila Willis |


The stockings are already hung, candles lit, lights strung, and carols sung but the financial stress has begun to peek from behind the corners of brown paper packages tied up with string. Everything’s shiny and cozy but you can’t shake that feeling that you went way over budget this holiday. You’re not alone; holidays are a particularly stressful time for many financially. The average American spends $700 on holiday gifts and goods bringing the total to crest over $465 billion, according to the National Retail Federation estimates. The gifts add up quicker than the credit card statements can roll in and even the cost of the casseroles and cookies you’re bringing to the office holiday potluck can be a frustrating star atop the extra expensive tree.

With just a few easy changes to your holiday spending habits you can cut back the deep dive your checking account usually takes, and you can spend your New Year’s resolution on personal development instead of the usual freak out and vowing to save and spend smarter.

  • Make a budget…and check it twice. If you’re an avid list maker there is nothing more rewarding than making a list of all the gifts you want to buy your loved ones. But, when you make a list you automatically want to put more and more amazing ideas on the list leading to, you guessed it: overspending. Set your holiday budget of how much, total, you want to spend. Then break it down by person and keep in mind that it really doesn’t matter so much what the gift is as much as the effort put into it.
  • Handmade is a holiday hero. Speaking of effort, people love receiving presents that didn’t just pop off the conveyor belt in China. If you woodwork, quilt, paint, or are really good at making Pinterest-worthy crafts, don’t shy away from using your talents on your loved ones’ Christmas presents. You've then made something Instagram worthy and they get something from the heart.
  • Cut back on the “expectations” that don’t bring you joy. So much of the holidays is the socio-cultural norms that were ingrained in us growing up. Cut back when and where you can. For example, if you really hate sending holiday cards with the latest picture of the family and short (oh so sweet) letter about all the high points in the family then DON’T! Send a thought email or e-card and save on the cost of printing pictures and postage.
  • Secret Santa is a super saver. For large families have everyone pull a name out of a hat and that person is then the only one you have to buy gifts for. This ensures that everyone receives a nice personal gift, but everyone is not spending big bucks and time trying to find something for everyone.
  • Shift your paradigm: credit cards are short term loans. If you think of your credit card like a short term loan the immediacy to pay it off can feel greater. Also, pay close attention to interest rates—choose a card with a very low interest rate.
  • Like most things in life, procrastination doesn’t pay off. Last minute gifts and cards are always a little pricier, as will be the first-class expedited shipping you’ll need to get it there. Start your holiday shopping early and get the gifts going to your relatives across the country (or world) first.