Dealing with Financial Stress During the Holidays

As much as we would like to envision the holidays as a time of good tidings, cheer and festivities, the end of the calendar year can be a very stressful time for many Americans.

According to a LendingTree survey, a majority of Americans (61 percent) are dreading the holidays due to spending, with about one-third of people losing sleep due to worrying about how they’ll meet the financial obligations of the season. Another one-fourth of people anticipate taking on debt this year, while about one-fifth of Americans are still dealing with balances from last year’s holiday season.

These statistics paint a very different picture of the season — revealing how it can impact household finances, and how these challenges can weigh on emotions to boot.

Here are a few tips for dealing with financial stress during the holidays.

Prioritize What’s Really Important

Sometimes we have an exaggerated idea of what we “should” do for the holidays — which may include gifts for every family member, friend, coworker and neighbor under the sun — plus extras like hosting parties and traveling across the country.

However, one way to save money without sacrificing any of the true meaning of the season is to prioritize.

As one expert cites for Forbes, a recent survey actually found:

  • More than one-fourth of people are willing to get no gifts (26 percent)
  • One-fourth of people would actually rather opt out of exchanging presents (25 percent)
  • 15 percent of Americans would opt out of traveling to visit family.

Rather than assuming you have to do certain pricey activities this season, consider what is most important to you and your loved ones. Then, have a conversation about it with the goal of reaching a mutual agreement. There’s nothing wrong with explaining that money is tight this year, so you’re hoping to find ways to celebrate without breaking your budget. You’ll be surprised to see how many people agree.

Plan Ahead for Using Credit

Where many Americans get into trouble is putting purchases on credit — then dealing with the debt for months or years to come. It’s not always possible to pay for everything in cash or using a debit card. If you have to use credit to float certain expenditures, make a plan ahead of time. Try to break down how much you’d need to save each week leading up to the holidays to finance these purchases.

The next step is coming up with a repayment strategy, as making minimum payments on credit card debt alone is an expensive and drawn-out process. If you are one of the many U.S. households struggling with ongoing debt that may be exacerbated even more at the holidays, consider your options. A quick Google search of “debt relief programs near me” will help you learn about the ins and outs of the settlement process, while meeting with a credit counselor is also a great start toward finding a debt relief program like a debt management plan (DMP) or consolidation loan.

Become a Coupon-Savvy Buyer

Chances are, even if you set credit limits and pare down your festivities, you’ll still see some extra expenses this holiday season. Besides shopping the sales, it’s worth becoming coupon savvy — perhaps even letting coupons determine in part what you end up buying. Nowadays there are physical coupons available, as well as online-only deals. Investing a little bit of time up front seeking out coupons can help you save $10 to $100s of dollars.

If you’re feeling financially stressed ahead of the holidays, rest assured you are not alone. There are some actions you can take to minimize the financial burden and ensure a successful season within reasons.

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