Now that the gifts have been opened, the decorations have come down and the credit card bills are rolling in, you may be faced with a financial holiday hangover.
“When I think of a financial holiday hangover, I think of the buyer’s remorse many feel after the glow of the holidays has dimmed,” says Nathan Astle, certified financial therapist for Beyond Finance. “Just like an alcohol hangover, we realize the festivities we enjoyed may have some consequences we didn’t thoroughly plan to experience.”
Overspending during the holidays isn’t uncommon. According to a survey from American Express, 86% of millennials spent more money during the holidays than they’d originally planned; in a survey from U.S. News & World Report, nearly 42% of people expected to go into debt to afford gifts and travel during the holiday season.
“Overspending during the holidays can leave people feeling anxious and stressed once they return to their everyday lives,” says Astle. “If your holiday spending ruins your New Year, it might be time to rethink how to approach the holidays financially.”
Some signs of a financial holiday hangover include feeling shame or guilt about purchases. Recovering from one requires honesty, accountability, and compassion.
“The best thing you can do is stay engaged! So many of us get overwhelmed and give up, which is a totally normal human response,” says Astle. “The problem is money isn’t something we can avoid figuring out forever. If we can stay engaged, we are in a much better position to recover financially.”
In order to avoid a financial holiday hangover next year, try the following tips:
Create a holiday savings plan.
“Having a certain amount of money set aside each month to go toward a holiday account can drastically cut the pain you could feel afterward,” he says. Consider forming a separate savings account for holiday spending and set up automated savings.
Make a list and check it twice.
Once you have your savings in order, create a budget with a dollar amount for every person you plan on shopping for. Avoid the temptation of extra spending by shopping online (and sticking to your list) rather than shopping in person.
Pay for holiday gifts in cash.
“When your money is gone, your holiday shopping should be as well,” says Astle.
“Of course everything is clearer in hindsight, but there’s very little use in kicking ourselves for going overboard if it has already happened,” says Astle. “If we give in to that shame and tell ourselves that we are ‘bad with money’ or ‘have no self-control,’ we will have little motivation to change our behaviors. Shame is the enemy of change because it keeps us isolated and stuck. Financial mistakes do not define who you are and don’t have to define your relationship with money.”
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