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Holiday Money Stress: How to Cope

Combine debt or tight finances with the pressure to spend for the holidays, and the result is holiday money stress. Some people try to ignore it, but rushing into holiday shopping unprepared is likely to aggravate the problem. Before you buy, follow these simple tips to help make the season less stressful, at least from a financial perspective!

Talk to a Credit Counselor

A nonprofit credit counselor can help you figure out your income and expenses, and walk you through creating a realistic houshold budget. Knowing exactly how much you have in your budget will banish any doubt or uncertainty about the amount you can spend on holiday purchases. Plus, a credit counselor can address other financial worries you’re dealing with—such as a debt management program if you have debts to pay off. Establishing a plan to improve your financial situation will lower your stress level.

Plan Purchases Ahead of Time

The key to shopping on a budget is avoiding impulse purchases. Plan ahead by making a list of gifts, decorations, and party supplies you want to buy. Then, check the prices on different websites, or call stores to ask how much they’re charging for the items you want. Make purchases only once you’ve learned which retailer offers the best deal. If your budget doesn’t leave room for buying things new, consider making some things on your list yourself, swapping items with a friend or shopping for used items. Make your money stretch by thinking outside the box!

Make Your Own Gifts and Decorations

Making gifts and decorations at home will save you money, as long as you stick with supplies that you can get cheaply or that you already have on hand. Collect pine cones and paint them to use as ornaments, or decorate with strings of popcorn tinted with food coloring. For ideas on making gifts with repurposed items, check out this list of tutorials from Everything Etsy. You can transform old t-shirts, bottle caps, and other everyday objects into charming presents.

Donate to Charity

Maybe you find searching for deals just as stressful as overspending, or maybe you hate everything crafty. Or it could be that there just isn’t room in your budget for holiday gifts and decorations this year. Instead of continuing with shopping you don’t like and can’t afford, skip it and focus on helping those in need. Don’t try to stretch $10 to cover gifts for 20 extended family members; forgo the presents and give the money to a charity. You can give out note cards explaining that you donated to a cause in place of buying a gift; you may even inspire some recipients to make contributions themselves. Likewise, if planning for a holiday party is causing more anxiety than joy, cancel the party and invite your friends to join you in volunteering at a food bank. Helping out in a meaningful way gives you peace of mind and relief from the pressure to spend.

Holiday money stress shouldn’t overshadow your holiday celebrations. By planning ahead and staying within a budget, you can let go of some financial worries and allow yourself to enjoy the season.

Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today



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