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Handling Holiday Financial Stress

By Sarah Ellis, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at UF/IFAS Citrus County
Reviewed by  Michael Gutter, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida

The holiday season is right around the corner!  Holidays give us a chance to visit with our family and friends and celebrate. However, holiday overspending can cause unnecessary stress and harm your financial health. What can you do to better manage your money and avoid overspending?

Make a Plan

Start planning and getting organized ahead of time. Plan and set a Christmas budget to help avoid overspending. Decide how much you can spend on each person so that you avoid feeling stressed later. Make a to-do list that includes what needs to be bought and where you can get it. Gifts can be purchased early and stashed away till Christmas. If you find yourself feeling stressed out because of holiday spending decisions, ask yourself: How much can I save before the holidays?  Am I comfortable creating debt?  Am I comfortable saying no?

Credit Cards: Handle with Care

Be cautious with credit. Using credit cards to purchase gifts can deceive you into purchasing more than you can afford. Gifts purchased with a credit card can end up costing much more once the months of finance charges are added up. Using too much of your available balance to purchase gifts can cause your credit score to drop due to high balances. These lower credit scores can end up costing you more money in interest if you apply for a loan.

Layaway for Another Day

Put your gifts on layaway. Many large retailers offer layaway for holiday purchases. Start shopping early and take advantage of being able to pay a little on your purchases over time. You will be debt free and be able to purchase your gifts.

Save Early

In the future you can start saving earlier and take advantage of automatic transfers to help save. Using cash to purchase holiday gifts will help you avoid holiday debt altogether. Start saving now by putting aside a little from each paycheck, and use this money to fund your holiday purchases in 2015!

While holidays can bring on many different emotions, from joy to anxiety, remember that your focus should be on enjoying quality time with your family. Have realistic expectations of the holiday and focus on the true meaning of the season.

And for a humorous look at planning for holiday shopping, check out this video from a UF/IFAS Family Economics Specialist:

(Photo credit: Castle Court shopping centre, Belfast by Paul Wilkinson. CC BY 2.0. Cropped.)

References:

McWilliams, R., Pigott- Dillard, J., & Gutter, M. (2014). Five Steps to Seasonal Savings. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY140500.pdf

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