How to Beat the Holiday Spending Blues

It’s okay to not love the holidays. They can be overwhelming. As soon as November hits, we’re inundated with everything holiday: special merchandise, endless sales, parties, plans and lots of pressure. If you’re not feeling like your best self — financially, romantically, emotionally — the holiday blues can hit hard. When you add the stress of holiday spending to the equation, many people find that the season sets them up for disappointment.

But if avoiding the holidays altogether is not possible, surviving and reframing your expectations of the season can give your spirit a much needed boost. “If you can’t go over it and you can’t go under it, you gotta go through it.”

First of all, don’t punish yourself for your negative feelings. Many people feel depressed, stressed, lonely, grief-stricken and resentful this time of year, notes Lynn Somerstein, PhD. Her advice for dealing with the weight of everyone’s expectations is to define your own expectations and deal with them first. A central part of this process is establishing your very own holiday spending budget. Think of your budget as your holiday blueprint.

Your budget is where you set your own goals. Being realistic and conservative about your expectations will help motivate you and turn your holiday blues into a sense of achievement. The trick is to start thinking about them now.

Goal One: Cherish happy memories and streamline

It’s easy to fall victim to overscheduling during the holiday season if you try to do it all. Chances are you have certain cherished holiday traditions that bring you the most joy. Think about what’s important to you and your family. If your wish is to simply spend quality time at home, start practicing saying ‘No’ to event overload, without the guilt.

Remember that, for many people, the holiday season includes some time off work. If you’re expecting some vacation time, it’s important to try to rest and recharge your batteries for the new year.

Goal Two: Communicate your goals to friends and family

Sticking to your holiday budget and keeping your spending in check takes a little planning and communication. There is still time to propose new traditions with friends and family that focus on quality time spent together, secret Santas, gift swaps or getting together to give back to the community (dinner at a soup kitchen, food bank and other volunteering activities). If your budget is particularly tight this year, a tactful and thoughtful heads-up may also be necessary, especially for people whose expectations are different than yours.

Goal Three: Planning gift purchases, either online or with cash

Spending hours online or traipsing around a shopping mall looking for the perfect gift is a very good way to frustrate yourself and end up spending more than you can afford. The trick to buying gifts under budget is to have a clear idea of what you’re looking for.

Part of your holiday budget should include a column with ideas that include the interests of the person you are buying for. If you’ve planed far enough in advance, online shopping can be beneficial. Oftentimes you can consolidate your order and save on shipping.

You might find it easier to stick to a holiday budget if you limit your spending to cash or debit. For purchases where you absolutely need a credit card, be sure you can pay off that purchase in January. Avoiding credit also mean avoiding unwelcome post-holiday credit cards bills.

Goal Four: Save money by rethinking entertainment costs

This may be one of the simplest ways to save money because entertainment is really a non-essential expense. Every entertainment dollar you spend could be used elsewhere. For example, you can save money by reducing or eliminating cable or satellite packages that you aren’t using or by switching to another less expensive provider. Think about all the automated subscriptions that you aren’t using or would be willing to forgo to offset seasonal costs. Magazine or newspaper subscriptions, gym memberships, or other clubs can always be renewed in the months to come.

Goal Five: Cut back on discretionary expenses

Think about eliminating a few regular discretionary expenses in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Skip a regular haircut or manicure. Opt out of a weekly brunch date. Use those savings to treat yourself or connect with family and friends during the holidays. This is also a great savings strategy to put in place at the beginning of the year. Cutting back on a few discretionary expenses throughout the year may allow you to make regular contributions to a holiday savings account.

Goal Six: Take a closer look at your current debt

A big reason why people get stressed over the holidays is that they are worried about adding to their debt levels. According to a recent report, 21 per cent of respondents are worried about holiday spending adding to their credit card debt.

If you’re making monthly debt payments to various lenders, think about how you’re managing your debt. You may be paying more interest charges than necessary. Strategies like debt consolidation, paying down the principal amount of your debt or requesting an interest rate reduction can free up more money in your budget. 

If you have debt problems, you can also speak with a professional to learn about your options. A Licensed Insolvency Trustee can help you decide what debt relief option would work best for you.

Are you experiencing holiday spending stress? We are always discussing tips and advice for making better debt decisions. Connect with us on Twitter using #HolidaySpending #LeaveDebtBehind or join our Facebook community.