As Marianne drove around town and saw storefronts full of holiday decorations she felt a twinge of stress in her stomach. At first she wasn't sure what was going on. She loved the holidays. Then it hit her like a ton of bricks. She thought about all the stuff she had to buy for everyone and her shoulders shot up to her ears. Marianne is not alone. Millions of Americans have a love/hate relationship with the holidays -- loving the joyous, family-oriented aspects and hating the stress that can come along with shopping and to-do lists that are a mile long. So that's why we?ve dedicated this article to five tips that can help you have a Stress Free Holiday season this year.
- Tip No.1: Recognize the insanity. As a society we have super-sized the holidays, and not in a good way. A recent Gallup poll shows the average American expects to spend just over $900 this year on holiday gift giving. What these polls don't show, however, is the aftermath of that kind of spending. It stresses people out both financially, especially in the New Year when bills start rolling in. Not to mention the emotional stress that can come from trying to keep up with it all.
- Tip No.2: Remind yourself that the whole point of the holiday season is to stop and be grateful for what you have in your life. Here's a great Stress-busting exercise. Sit down and ask yourself what really, truly makes you happy. If you are really honest with yourself, many things on your list will be low cost small joys: hanging out with your spouse, your kids, your friends. Baking holiday cookies as well as driving around and looking at pretty holiday decorations might also make your list.
- Tip No. 3: Set a holiday spending strategy. Decide if you want to go "narrow and deep" getting whiz bang gifts for a handful of people or "wide and& shallow" distributing small gifts to many people. The one thing you want to avoid -- unless money is no objects -- is getting "deep and wide." Lots of expensive gifts for many people is the ultimate recipe for financial disaster.
- Tip No. 4: Remember to strive to use your credit cards only for items you can pay off in full when the bill comes. If you make only the minimum monthly payment on an average credit card with a mid-teens interest rate, you are effectively doubling the pricing of anything you buy. Buying a gift for someone on a credit card you can't afford to pay off will hurt you in the long run, and that's not worth it. Also, be very careful about all those offers to get 10 percent off with purchase. It hurts your credit score to open up lots of new credit cards all at once. On top of this, store cards often have such high interest rates that they will offset the 10 percent saved. The only way these cards are a good deal is if you are 100 percent committed to paying off that bill on time and in full every single month.
- Tip No. 5: Be creative. Gift giving is not about the dollars spent. There are many ways to be creative and stick to your budget. For instance, a great gift may be putting $100 away every holiday time in a college fund for each of your children. You may also want to make your gifts this year and give your loved ones a really memorable and not necessarily costly holiday gift. This is your time to get those creative juices flowing, and not blow your budget just to get those fancy gifts.