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How to Manage Christmas and Holiday Stress

By Monika Ritchie

Moving through this “merry” month, you may be juggling a variety of holiday tasks and projects, but what about managing your Christmas and holiday stress levels? A recent survey from Angus Reid* reports that Canadians are feeling the holiday stress; half (53%) say this year feels more emotionally stressful than past holiday seasons. Meanwhile, 41% say this year feels more stressful than most financially. As we speed further into this celebratory season, after almost two years of social distancing and other restrictions, many of us are anxious to see our extended families, share some joy, and indulge in some long-awaited celebrating. In all that excitement, it can be easy to forget about the importance of boundaries, financial and otherwise. Having solid boundaries in place – especially during the holidays – will not only save your budget and help you start the New Year financially healthy, it’s also a great way to manage stress during the season. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Stick to Your Christmas Budget 

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Having a list for any kind of shopping and spending is the best way to save money and manage your stress levels. It’s especially important during the holidays when it can be far too easy to get carried away with spending. Having a firm Christmas budget is one of the simplest ways to stay on track, especially when those around you are spending money and buying gifts without concern.

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Don’t Be Swayed by Others’ Spending

After a long time apart, your family and friends are likely excited to see you and may get excessive with the gift-giving. This can make you feel obligated to reciprocate, which is a sure-fire way to break your budget. It can be a tough conversation but be kind yet firm about your gift-giving and spending limits. Here are some tips: 

  • Talk to your family and friends, if it’s early enough in the season, you can discuss limiting gift-giving this year. You can even send out an email or e-card letting them know, for example “The only ‘present’ we want this year, is your ‘presence.’ Please don’t worry about gifts.” It’s a friendly way to set some spending boundaries without hurting anyone’s feelings. 
  • If it’s too late to limit buying gifts or your family and friends are determined to do gifts this year, put a spending cap on them. It really is the thought that counts, not the money spent. This way, you can oversee your own spending limits, while leaving it up to other people to manage theirs.
  • Secret Santa can save you money, especially if you have a larger group to buy for. There are free sites online that can set up a virtual secret Santa exchange, you can even include spending limits, deadlines, and other useful information. Each person simply buys for the name they’ve drawn, it’s fun, and saves you from buying potentially dozens of other gifts!

The Psychology of Spending – Why We Spend the Way We Do

Don’t Let Emotional Shopping Break Your Budget 

Whether you’re feeling excited and happy about seeing some people again or anxiety and dread over others, these emotions can send your spending into overdrive. Before you start shopping, think about how you’re feeling. Does the excitement of seeing your extended family or out of town friends make you want to buy out the store? Or are your anxieties causing you to rush in and make purchases without thinking it through? To save yourself some money and stress, try to take the emotions out of your shopping. Here are some tips:

  • Take care of yourself! If you’re feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious, don’t shop at that time. Make sure you’re hydrated and have had enough to eat before you start shopping as well. 
  • Expensive doesn’t equal better. Don’t stress yourself out trying to “keep up” with other people’s gifts or assume that spending less money somehow makes a gift inferior.
  • Spend time not money; plan an outing with friends or family members that’s focused on the season and not the spending. Make hot chocolate and go check out some Christmas lights, bake cookies together, or even go on a snowy hike. 

How to Avoid Emotional Spending

Healthy Boundaries Can Help You Skip the Holiday Stress & Save Money 

The holidays are a time when excitement, stress, and anxiety are often at their highest and setting these boundaries may be the last thing you want to think about. But setting firm financial boundaries with your budget and some personal ones with people close to you can help you stay on budget, focus on financial health, and limit the tension that comes when we try to do, buy, and manage it all.