With prices on everything from food to gas to clothing skyrocketing, it can be challenging to get into the holiday spirit this year. The winter holidays often signify a season of spending—gifts, holiday party attire, dinner ingredients, and travel expenses may all be adding up quickly. Unfortunately, these expenses may be higher than ever at a time when your budget is already tight. Adding onto the stress is the uncertainty of supply chains amid global uncertainty and domestic labor disputes.

If you are experiencing financial stress this season, you’re not alone. In 2022, U.S. adults ranked financial worries as their biggest source of stress, and a staggering 90% of Americans have lost sleep at night due to worries about finances or health. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help you cope without compromising the joy of the season. In fact, you may find that the rising costs of traditional holiday celebrations lead you to some cherished new traditions you can look forward to every year.

Set Financial Limits and Boundaries (and Don’t Be Afraid to Discuss Them)

A common habit for coping with financial stress around the holidays is to simply ignore the bills that are piling up and deal with them later. However, this strategy will only add to your stress. Instead, it’s best to face the situation head on. Know what you can spend, create a budget, and stick to it. If certain gifts or celebrations are out of budget this year, set your boundaries and stick to them. To do this, you may have to communicate plainly with friends and family. For example, it’s okay to say: “Big ticket gifts just aren’t in the budget for me this year,” or “I can’t afford to travel for the holidays this year, let’s plan for a video call on Christmas Day, and I’ll keep an eye out for deals when flights are more affordable.”

Consider Revising Holiday Traditions

Of course, it can be disappointing to yourself and to loved ones to simply cancel your cherished holiday plans due to financial constraints. As you decide which experiences and gifts may be out of reach this year, consider substituting some new holiday traditions that can lighten the financial load.

  • Host a Potluck Dinner – With grocery prices being so high, hosting a family dinner may be staggering, especially because holiday meals tend to feature more premium ingredients than your usual weeknight dinner. This year, consider hosting a potluck instead so that everyone can bring some of their favorite dishes, and you won’t have to foot the bill for the entire dinner.
  • Share Homemade Gifts – Many people express their love and gratitude through gifts, so financial stress may be compounded by feelings of inadequacy or guilt if you aren’t able to shop for gifts like you usually would. However, homemade gifts like a painting, a box of cookies, or even a framed photo may be even more cherished than something you simply purchased at a store. Alternatively, you might consider a Secret Santa gift swap for your family, so everyone only needs to purchase one gift for someone else.
  • Enjoy a Family Activity – While opening presents is often a featured activity for the holidays, there are plenty of other ways to make memories and enjoy time with loved ones. Consider shifting the focus away from gifts by taking a walk together, having a holiday movie marathon, or singing holiday tunes together.

Pool Resources to Provide Children with a Single, Memorable Gift

Having children can make the holidays particularly challenging if you are experiencing financial stress. However, if you think back to your childhood, you probably only remember one big gift from each year rather than all the stocking stuffers and smaller gifts that came along with it. Therefore, you might consider asking relatives to forgo small, individual gifts and pool funds for that one big gift your child has their heart set on.

Children are also surprisingly empathetic and understanding, so discussing holiday gift expectations with them can be helpful as well. Kids can handle the truth that money is tight, and they may not get as many gifts as they did last year. They are also likely to be receptive to other things they can look forward to during the holidays, like baking cookies together and decorating the house.

Reach Out for Mental Healthcare to Manage Your Stress

Even with all the strategies outlined above, holiday stress can be overwhelming. If you are losing sleep or experiencing other signs of anxiety like over/undereating, mood swings, constant worry, and frequent headaches, know that help is available. MeMD puts mental healthcare within reach with affordable virtual therapy appointments available in as little as 72 hours.

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