Hustle and bustle and holiday lights. Much as the season is about cheer, time with friends and family, giving, and good feelings – there are also a lot of expectations. Holiday stress, seasonal affective disorder (did they have to name it S.A.D.?), and the fact that time moves much faster when you are busy. Add financial worries into the mix, and it can be even more overwhelming!
Today, we want to discuss some ways you can seek a little relief from the usual holiday stress, and get back to finding a bit of that seasonal magic.
THE HEIGHT OF HOLIDAY STRESS: SANTA DOESN’T WORK FOR FREE
Among all the sources of holiday stress, money and expenses are the star at the top of the bummer tree. On top of the tremendous cost of gifts, there are other expenses to factor in. Those might be travel to see family or the extra cost of hosting out-of-town visitors (which probably means eating out more than usual, a padded grocery store visit, entertainment, etc). Parties to attend, cards to send, and in the spirit of giving, maybe some additional expenditures for charitable causes.
Last week, we touched on some quick tips for keeping costs lean at the last minute – but what about when you are feeling frozen in place by a seasonal storm of stressors?
ASK THE EXPERTS
Finances can be complex even in less chaotic times. Feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season is (unfortunately) normal.. But there’s always someone around to help. Services like our financial wellness partners at GreenPath offer personalized assistance with your problem financial areas.
Maybe you have more general financial questions, or just want a little peace of mind and breathing room when all those holiday bills land. FFCCU offers an array of options based on your timeline. For a more immediate solution, you might be eligible to skip your loan payment in December or January with Skip-A-Pay or stretch your budget with a holiday loan. If you’re worrying about a “Ghost of Christmas Future” worth of expenses, consider saving for 2024 by setting up a holiday club account (great for more than just seasonal considerations)!
Another long-term solution: Dare2Compare. A Dare2Compare account review pairs you with one of our expert teammates who will sit down and look for ways to save money going forward. Knowing that you have a plan won’t solve every problem, but it goes a long way to softening that holiday stress.
LEVERAGE YOUR TALENTS
If your budget truly doesn’t allow for gifts, think outside the (cash) box. Gifting can mean more than objects – sometimes, an act of service or work with your hands can bring more joy than a sweater or gadget. While homemade gifts are certainly an option, consider what skills you have even outside of the realm of hobbies. You may have mastery of a field from your work that can be applied to “freelancing” for friends and family in place of a physical gift (you might not think that elements of what you do can be “shopped out,” but take a look at services like Fiverr to get ideas about what kind of industry skills people like your friends and family occasionally need). Are you handy, or have experience with a tricky repair or home project? Offer to step in and solve that problem for your gift recipient. Have a spacious vehicle? Be the chauffeur for a special event or haul that furniture that would otherwise cost a fortune in shipping. Offers to go above and beyond can be a welcome surprise.
FLIP THE GIFTING SCRIPT ON HOLIDAY STRESS
The usual plan – everyone buys at least one gift for each other person. That’s exciting, expensive, and can lead to a chaotic night of opening. There are plenty of alternative gifting formats that will leave everyone satisfied.
Have your family, friend group, or gifting gang pick a single other individual from the entire pool. Focus a smaller segment of festive funds to get several surprises for your giftee. This could be in the form of a classic “Secret Santa” or just a more low-key exchange.
Group gifts are also a great way to cover multiple recipients without setting the same buying budget for each person. That way, a single, slightly more upscale present can suffice for a whole slice of your buying list (and helps with those “don’t get me anything” hold-outs who always make the process harder!)
It’s one of the last-minute savings tips we mentioned in a recent blog post, but you can plan exchanges (abundance, “white elephant,” or otherwise) ahead of time. Your swaps can be as elaborate or as straightforward as you wish. It’s possible to ease that holiday stress and slap some smiles on faces by trading out an item or piece of clothing that is fresh and exciting for your gift recipient.
HOLIDAY STRESS? JUST SAY ‘NO’
Seriously. You can just do that! Everyone’s family and social situations are different, but there will be those in your circles who understand. During this season especially, when care for loved ones is top of mind, there are those who understand that sometimes the best thing for your emotional health and financial well-being is just to “skip it and stay home.” Of course, you can’t (or may not want to) miss out on every event and group function…but if a few group gatherings are big stressors weighing you down, dropping those small ones can lessen the load of that holiday stress.
That can be easier said than done! Saying ‘yes’ to everything adds a lot of unanticipated expenses to your budget, but it can be hard to explain that to loved ones. Sticking to a budget sometimes means you have the funds for activity A or activity B, but not for both. You might have to make a hard choice and let one or both parties down by opting out. Remember: you don’t owe anyone an explanation of how you budget your time and money. That’s a “rock and hard place” situation when it comes to holiday stress (cash concerns vs. family pressure), but ultimately, the people close to you are going to be more forgiving than your budget. There’s nothing wrong with sometimes saying no – whether it’s your time or your wallet influencing that choice.
STAY HEALTHY AND ENJOY THE SEASON
It’s probably impossible to avoid all of your holiday stress. Treat your season the way you treat your spending – focus on what’s essential, cut out what you can miss, and look for ways to cover more of your needs with fewer resources (in this case, time and money). Breathing easily might even put a little more magic into the season.