7 Steps to Deflate Holiday Stress and Look Foward to 2021

Kicking up your heels or heaving a huge sigh over the holidays?

Why not throw in the biggest holiday of the year on top of running a household, taking on the teacher role for your children, trying to hold down a job (or all of the above)… and try not to catch an invisible airborne illness.

You’re entitled to feel a bit tired. But we encourage you to look on the bright side: You can minimize financial stress during the holidays, and we’ll give you some tips so you can breathe just a little bit easier. Here’s how!

How to Deflate Holiday Financial Stress

What’s the best way to put the plug in holiday financial stress? Try these seven things.

Step 1: Open a separate account just for the holidays. 

Whatever you do, don’t hit the shops or Amazon without a plan. Figure out what’s affordable for you and how much you can spend based on your budget. 

If your typical holiday spend on gifts, food and everything else totals about $800, that equates to about $67 per month. Deposit that $67 into a separate account from your regular savings or checking account every month. Better yet, set up an automatic transfer to a Christmas account and it’s done!

You might notice that this practice requires you to rewind back to January 2020. However, you can tackle this very idea starting next month and start getting yourself prepared for the 2021 holidays.

Note: You can still funnel some money into that account starting now, every week until the end of December and use it to plan for a New Year’s party!

Step 2: Write out a list, just like Santa. 

Who do you want to buy gifts for and what causes do you want to donate to? Don’t forget those outside the family you want to recognize — a babysitter, your mail carrier, your favorite hairdresser, etc. You want to give gifts to people who serve you throughout the year. Whatever you do, don’t leave them out, then “suddenly remember” them when you’re down to your last $50.

Keep that list handy next year so you can remember these people year to year and add to the list as new people enter your life. 

Step 3: Allocate a dollar amount toward every person on your list.

Once you list everyone out, put an exact dollar amount next to each person so you can budget your spend. You probably want to spend more on your grandchild compared to your mail carrier, but it’s still important to write down each amount so you can visualize how much you’ll actually spend. Part of the problem with the holidays is that it’s easy to spend willy-nilly until you receive your credit card bill and then wonder, “Hmmm… How’d I spend that much money?”

Allocating a dollar amount for every person also ensures that you spend the same amount on similar relatives, like spending the same amount on each of your kids, parents and grandkids. 

Step 4: Think beyond toys for the kids. 

The last thing the kids need is another toy for the toy box. Consider needs versus wants and invest in opportunities for the future. Saving for college with a 529 plan or considering other ways to get college paid for is a great way to prepare for the future.

Consider other things kids need — soon-to-graduate college kids need professional clothing, kids who will start a new sport need cleats, baseball gloves, etc. 

Kids who need practice reading need books! Think beyond toys, toys and more toys. Most kids have way more than they’ll ever play with, anyway.

Step 5: Tally your list and consider any adjustments, if needed.

Don’t forget to add additional holiday items you may want — Christmas cookie ingredients, candles, a fresh tree, wreaths and more. Don’t forget to budget in your holiday mani/pedi, hairdo or massage.

These “little” things may surprise you, so don’t forget that you still need the extras to make the holidays great, even if you’ll entertain a smaller crowd at your house this year.

If you need to juggle the spending a little bit, reexamine where you’ve allocated money. Can you take a little bit away from one person and funnel the money back toward another? Get creative!

Step 6: Stick to your list.

When you assess, plan and budget for high-spend situations (holidays, birthday parties, weddings) it provides a sense of control and minimizes the stress. You want to stick to your list to minimize as much stress as possible.

Our best advice: Don’t deviate from the dollars you’ve written on your list.

Step 7: Prep for after the holidays.

The best time to plan for the holidays is the year prior. Hit the sales after the holidays disappear. Instead of gobbling leftover sugar cookies, go shopping for next year with your newfound holiday money. You can find sales on wrapping paper, tape, serving items, cookie tins, ornaments and more! Even better, you can buy all this stuff for practically nothing after the season. Tis the season to stock up!

(You’ll thank yourself next year.)

Finally, Get Purse Strings’ Course

Though the holidays are a time of wonder, beautiful evergreens, snow (for some!), delicious holiday cookies and more, it can be extremely stressful. For some, the holidays bring joy and laughter, and for others, it’s easy to get mired down in tasks and the dread of spending so much money. (Does anyone else ever feel like you’re never done spending?)

Ultimately, what you don’t want is to slap everything on a credit card and decide you’ll figure it out later.

Tap into Purse Strings’ latest course, which can help you get your financial foundations in order. Start the new year with a resolution to get in front of your money. This year, vow to control your money instead of letting your money control you.


Bio: Melissa Brock is a 12-year veteran of college admission, founder of College Money Tips and Money editor at Benzinga. She loves helping families navigate their finances and the college search process. Check out her essential timeline and checklist for the college search!

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