How to avoid falling into the trap of Christmas financial stress

Do you find yourself enjoying the summer months and then the autumn sets in and you start to panic. You begin to see Christmas cards and gifts in shops far too early and the pressure to ‘buy’ gifts for others starts to ‘kick in’. It is important to have your finances in order in the lead up to December, so not to add to this already super-stressful time of year.

Why do we allow the added angst?

We have started to get the message of Christmas so very wrong! This is one time of year to spend ‘time’ with loved ones be it family, friends or both, but instead the focus is not on this but the ‘receiving of gifts’. My friends talk to me about their stress and the financial pressures of Christmas. I listen and on reflection, and reading between the lines, I can clearly see that their desire to spread extra love at Christmas leads to extra expenses. It does not have to be this way! Societal expectation means that I watch my loved ones and friends laying out a lot of money in a concentrated period of time because we are all doing it, and its supposedly a way of showing the people we love how much we understand and value them. So much pressure is put on this ‘act of thoughtful giving’ during Christmas that it can become the straw that broke the camel’s back to a family who may be struggling to make ends meat. Not only are their finances a strain but also with trying to keep on trend with societal expectations, their mental health may start to dwindle, leading to a strained festive period.

How can you help yourself and others?

There are a few things I believe you can do to help avoiding falling into the trap of Christmas financial stress and have listed them here to try and help anyone reading this:

Plan ahead

Make a list of who you are shopping for and a guideline of cost to suit your individual budget. Set a limit to each gift and stick to it. Writing down the limits in advance is a good way to hold yourself accountable. Add up the total money to be spent for all gifts and see if you are happy, as well as your bank account – How do both feel about the total cost? Shop for gifts that will show you understand and know the persons likes, and that you listen to them when you are together. 

Be strong – Resist the urge to give beyond your means

At times, and I am sure we have all done it, we will spend extra money towards our Christmas gifts to make up for any shortcomings in our relationships. This is madness and needs to stop! Giving gifts does not add value to the love you may have for someone and if you are reading this and use this time of year to get your ‘brownie points’ in with another, then you may wish to reconsider your Christmas gifts. Another time that you may spend beyond your means is to please another. It is far better to have an honest conversation, about your ability to give this year, with your gift recipients. They will then understand why you have ‘scaled-back’ their present and that it is not a sign of ‘you loving them any less’. Believe me in this modern day society and its ‘norms’ many people would believe such.

Thoughtful gifts to improve a life or to add some love at Christmas

Go for a gift that shows you pay interest in the person, find something they’d really love, or go the extra mile and get something that will ultimately improve their everyday lives. It does not have to be an outrageously expensive gift, just one that makes the person smile and shows love and care for them. After all Christmas is a time to share the love, to be loving, kind and open with one and all. It can be as simple as baking some cookies, making a thoughtful Christmas collage with captions or even taking them to experience one of your passions that they too are interested in. All are thoughtful ways to be part of the gift-giving tradition, from the heart, without creating Christmas financial stress and New Year debt.

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