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Managing holiday financial stress

Holidays can be a wonderful time to catch up with friends and reconnect with family you don’t see during the year. However, many people also consider the holiday months to be the most stressful time of the year, especially when it comes to their finances.

Holiday stress can be caused by many factors: unrealistic expectations, overspending and family issues. With schools closed and children having lots of free time at home, this financial pressure can only increase.

The increased demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests also contribute to fatigue and tension. However, the good news is there are several steps you can take to lower your stress levels, keep your financial accounts stable and focus on the spirit of the holiday season.

1. First create your budget

Add up how much you spent during last year’s holiday season, including the cost of gifts, entertainment, meals and travel.  Plan ahead for this year, writing down the gifts and events you plan to spend money on this year, and setting a limit for each person and activity.

Identify the invitations to ceremonies that might come up: Weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, ensure you have the necessities like attires and jewellery well in advance to avoid last- minute rush which might cost you more. Also, avoiding multiple trips to stores saves time and money. 

2. Practice being thrifty

One way of being economical is by doing comparison shopping: Hunt for deals available for the products and services  you intend to purchase and compare the investment required.

There are specific channels online that will collect product information, including pricing, from participating retailers and then display that collective information on a single results page in response to a shopper’s search query.

In this way, shoppers can compare prices, shipping options, and service from multiple retailers on a single page and choose the merchant that offers the best overall value. Don’t get swept up in the shopping frenzy and spend more than you intended. Be an educated consumer and beware of sales pitches. 

3. Use cash whenever possible

Using cash helps to limit your spending. Always shop with a list and track your purchases as you go. Less transparent payment forms tend to be treated like play money. That which is perceived as “play money” is easier to part with than the real thing, it seems.

Cash makes budgeting easy. When we spend cash, we count what is left over after a purchase. Hardly any credit card buyers check their available credit after a purchase.

Though interest rates vary, the rates credit card companies charge when you don’t pay your minimum balance at the end of the month can be burdensome.

Also, if you find yourself using checks as “play money” and spend more than what you have in your account, you will be hit with overdraft fees from your bank and could incur even more fees from the retailer that received the bounced check.

Cash means less fees in charges. Avoid impulse purchases of items near the cash register as you wait to check out. You may not be able to avoid a credit card to purchase certain items, but think again about how using cash for other purchases may help your finances in the long run.

4. Make your own gifts or give the gift of time

There is nothing like a handmade gift from a loved one! Choosing the right gift for your loved one can be difficult, particularly when you are shopping for somebody who seems to have absolutely everything already.

The last thing you probably want to do is spend money on a gift that is going to sit on a shelf, unused, or a trinket your loved one will look at once in a while but which otherwise serves no purpose.

Gifts such as cookies, fudge or another home-made item are often more meaningful as most people appreciate your time and effort. You can also explore hand-crafts, photo-collage of arts. The gift of time with family and friends is also precious. 

5. Be creative

Holiday season comes with numerous invitations and get-together events. You can avoid spending and still enjoy the party. One way of having a creative party is the potluck dinner or “bring-a-dish” dinner, a popular concept among many friends.

This is a dinner party where everyone brings a course or dish. As the host, it is your responsibility to ensure everything runs smoothly even though you have no control over what your guests are going to bring.

A top hosting tip is to set a theme for the evening, because no one wants to eat lasagne and curry in the same meal. Inspire your guests with some interesting ideas: pick your favourite chef and get everyone to cook one of their recipes. Base your evening around seasonal produce or stick to a one-star ingredient like different types of chicken or fish. 

6. Lessen travel expenses

If you need to fly, try to buy your ticket in advance. Calculate if it would be cheaper to drive or take other means of transport such as train.

7. Discuss financial limitation

Some families have no problem discussing money. For the rest, you can use well-calculated tips to get your family on the same financial page.

Explaining to your children and spouse why you cannot deliver their expectations may help to relieve psychological burden after which you can have an agreed formula and scope of your spend. Some families set a limit on the number of family members for whom to buy gifts, draw names or only give presents to children.

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