It’s okay to feel stress and anxiety about holiday spending. The holidays can be overwhelming. As soon as November hits, we’re inundated with everything holiday: special merchandise, endless sales and lots of pressure. This year, though, the holiday season will be especially challenging for those families facing financial obstacles due to COVID-19. If you’re not feeling like your best self — financially or 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 reframing your expectations of the season can give your spirit a much needed boost. First of all, don’t punish yourself for your negative feelings. Many people are feeling depressed, stressed, lonely, grief-stricken and resentful right now. One way to deal with the weight of your own and everyone else’s expectations is to create a holiday spending plan that fits your current financial situation. 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 financial 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.
It’s easy to fall victim to traditional expectations during the holiday season. Chances are you have certain cherished holiday traditions that bring you the most joy, some of which may need to be altered or simplified to suit current circumstances. Think about what’s important to you and your family. If your wish is to simply spend quality time with your immediate family and closest friends, start practicing saying ‘No’ to those outside your immediate circle, 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.
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. For those you can’t see in person, schedule online chats. 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.
Spending hours online looking for the perfect gift is a very good way to frustrate yourself and spend 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’re shopping online, try to consolidate your order to save on shipping charges. But online shopping might not be your only option. Even if your area is in the midst of a full or partial shutdown due to the pandemic, you can still opt to shop locally. Chances are good that many local businesses will offer free delivery or curbside pickup.
You might find it easier to stick to a holiday budget if you limit your spending to debit. For purchases where you absolutely need a credit card, be sure you can pay off that purchase in January. Avoiding credit also means avoiding unwelcome post-holiday credit card bills.
For many families across Canada, holiday entertaining will look and feel different this year. In-person gatherings may be fewer or smaller in size. If you’re spending less on holiday celebrations this year, consider redirecting that spending if you can. Every extra dollar you can put towards paying down your debt or building up your emergency fund will mean less financial worry in the new year.
A big reason why people get stressed over the holidays is that they are worried about adding to their debt levels. According to the BDO Affordability Index, almost one-quarter of Canadians are facing overwhelming debt and financial uncertainty due to the pandemic. 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 need help solving your debt problems, it’s best to 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.
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