Dealing with Holiday Money Stress

Like no other time in the year, the holidays demand that we get quite gluttonous. Starting with gorging ourselves with turkey and stuffing, to imbibing on New Year’s Eve, the holidays make it easy for us to push rationality aside to indulge in the joyful holiday spirit.

For most, overindulgence happens all across the board, from eating to drinking to spending. Learning how to reduce some of your holiday stress might lower the post-celebratory hangover in January (your relationship and your wallet may thank you later).

Spending too much is pretty much a given for most people during the holidays, but use these tips to help you deal with your holiday money stress:

  1. Plan your spending early: Whether you’re trying to decide how much to spend on gifts, eating out or traveling, getting in touch with how much you figure on spending, or setting a budget, can help you deal with some of the post-sticker shock experiences of the new year. Try to get a sense of how many people you’re spending on, plan what events or functions require you to shop, or pick up wine,or get a sense your specific travel expenses may be. Planning early, and setting a budget and sticking to it, will help you not get caught up in the mad consumerism of the holiday season.
  2. Understand your reasons for spending money/saying “no”: Gifts and holiday expenses are normal, but going over the top may not be, especially in today’s economic climate. For some, especially people pleasers, the tendency to buy gifts for people so they’ll be happy with us may be going too far. Also, if you are going to holiday parties or events where you feel obligated to, don’t. There may be the obligatory work party that everyone needs to go to, but if there are parties or dinners you’re invited to and you don’t really want to go, and where you can reasonably decline, stay true to yourself and say ‘no’.
  3. Communicate with your wife or girlfriend about spending: Talk and plan with the one you love about what the financial expectations are for the season. Are you both on the same page about how much you are wanting to spend, say on the children’s gifts, on each other’s gifts, eating out, etc.? Do you both have the same ideas about how much you think is reasonable to spend? Talk and get on the same page.
  4. Use Mint.com: This is one of the best websites out there, for tracking your expenses, setting short term goals, or getting a sense of what parts of your life you spend most in. There are pretty color pie charts and line charts to help illustrate your spending and saving, so you can feel like you’ve got a nice hold on your holiday spending. They’ve got a pretty handy iPhone application to boot, so you can track while you’re shopping.
  5. Don’t “emotionally spend”: Emotional spending is probably the majority of what we end up consuming up holidays, whether that’s the impulsive peppermint latte at Starbucks, or that quick $50 photo shoot with Santa for your kids at the mall. Christmas and the holidays have a way of stoking our emotions to open up our wallets, so just be careful that you don’t end up spending out of emotion instead of logic and planning. The retailers and businesses depend on our emotional spending, this time of the year more than any other, but as far as stress goes, it could be better to just leave the house with a firm list.Don’t give into those merry Christmas tunes piped into the store you’re browsing, and buy just on impulse.
  6. Watch That Debt: If you can, leave the credit cards at home completely this holiday season. Debt is lessen vogue now, after the chilly economic recession we’re trudging out of. Adding more debt is going to leave you more financially stressed and may push some into depression or anxiety. Debt will make you stress, and why would you want to have more stress to an already stressful season? Leave that credit card of home, and pay with cash. To take it one step beyond, try shopping this season with just a planned wadful of cash. Decide early how much lump sum to to pull out, and use that strictly for your gift shopping this season.

The men who are firmly centered this holiday season are the men who are mindfully spending. Reckless spending’s not good for anyone, except for the credit card companies and retailers. If you’re in a relationship this holiday season, try to use these tips to help you and your partner stay the same page about how you’re both spending money. This will add to a lot less relationship stress, too. Dealing with holiday money stress can be difficult, when we get swept up in the good times and tidings of the holiday season. Watching your money may help you start the new year in a much less stressful way.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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