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Last updated on 6th of December 2019

How to survive financial stress during the holiday season

It's finally here! 'Tis the season to be jolly, is it not? No matter how much you love the Christmas period, it is an expensive time of year for many of us.

Often, it's easy to get caught up in the stress over funding all that the season brings. This can lead to us completely forgetting that this time of year is all about spreading joy and enjoying time with family and friends. The holidays aren't only about buying gifts for your loved ones, there are lots of hidden expenses that can be forgotten. Christmas for most people is about indulging; unfortunately, indulgent dinners don't come cheap, especially if you're the one hosting them. It's easy for costs to quickly add up on food and gifts, and also travel if you're spending the holidays visiting family. Financial stress can ruin the holiday season, so finding ways to prepare for the expense and alleviate some of the pressure can help you to enjoy yourself and take a well-deserved break. Here is a short guide to help you manage your money and enjoy the festive cheer.

Talk to your family and friend about your expectations, budget, and boundaries

When it comes to funding Christmas, we can find ourselves getting caught up in the worry about what others will think of us in terms of giving and receiving gifts. Although many people only give gifts that they can afford without expecting anything of equal value in return, others don't. Having a conversation with your family and friends about how you'll be spending the season this year, what you'll be cutting back on and your gift budget can be a good way to manage expectations regarding gift-giving. Once you have told people how much you'll be spending on gifts this year, it is their choice whether to match this amount or spend more if they can afford it. Although this conversation can be awkward, it does take a lot of the worry away and will allow you to give presents that are in your price range without feeling guilty about doing so.

When having the conversation, you may also want to bring up boundaries. By this, we mean discussing what you will and won't be doing this holiday season. For example, some people may wish to invite you to events or other gatherings that come with significant costs. Letting others know that you'll be staying close-by this Christmas and avoiding spending too much on travel or other costs can avoid any awkward interactions. Most people will be understanding - not everyone has the same budget for the holiday period and that's just a fact that has to be accepted.

Plan ahead - saving

Although you may be reading this guide fairly close to the holiday season, you still have time to set some money aside. However, if this isn't feasible for you, once this Christmas is out of the way, consider planning for next year straight away. This may sound a little crazy but planning for the expense of Christmas and the holiday season 11 months ahead can be a great way to take a lot of the stress of financial planning for this expensive period away. For example, in January work out how much money you can afford to set aside each month and either save this in cash or arrange for it to be paid into a separate account. You can save a fair amount of money over eleven months, and you may even have some leftover after Christmas to spend in the January sales.

The January sales can also be ideal for those that want to plan as often, you'll find stores selling off their Christmas stock for next to nothing. If you get there at the right time, you should be able to stock up on all of your wrapping paper, decorations, and other supplies for next year. Furthermore, many retailers greatly discount many of their products in January, so it's a great time to grab some gifts for next Christmas. Doing this can make next Christmas a breeze, and get rid of unnecessary stress before it even has the chance to surface. The January sales also highlight how much certain products are marked up by retailers to exploit Christmas buyers - this may even be enough to encourage you to plan your holiday buying ahead of time for years to come.

Make a list, and check it twice - the holiday budget

If you want to survive the financial stress of the holidays then you'll have to start planning. You don't have to start saving for it 11 months in advance if you can't afford to, but you will have to get used to writing lists and properly planning your spending. The holiday budget is a bigger deal than the other budgets that you may have made at other times during the year, as there is usually much more to take into consideration. Not only do you have all of the things that consume your funds every month anyway, but you also have all of the holiday spendings to take into account.

First, sit down and look at the amount of money that you have to spend over the holiday season. Once you have done this, write down the names of everybody that you want to buy gifts for this year. Then consider any plans that you have for the holiday period and estimate the costs associated with these (it's always better to over-estimate). Costs that can be associated with the plans could be things like fuel for your car, train tickets, wine or food to take, or anything else you can think of. When you have worked out the costs of your holiday commitments, you'll then have an idea of how much you can spend on gifts.

Your gift budget will need to be split among everybody on your list, but this doesn't mean that it has to be split evenly. You're unlikely to spend the same amount on a work colleague as you would on your partner or child. This means you'll have to shift some numbers around to split the budget between everyone on the list (you may need a calculator). Remember that if you have had a conversation with friends and family about your budget and expectations, there should be nothing to worry about in regards to the amount that you have to spend on them. Most adults will understand that you may choose to spend more on your children or other children in your family than the adults.

Do your holiday shopping during off-peak hours

Shopping for the holidays can be a stressful experience even before you try to stick to a budget. Although you want to avoid financial stress as much as possible, shopping during busy hours can cause you to overspend accidentally. Most of us want to get out of a busy shop as soon as possible - because of this, we may be more susceptible to overspending or grabbing the first thing that we see in an attempt to speed up the process. This is very counter-productive when you want to stick to a strict budget, so you should try to shop during the quieter hours where possible.

Avoid impulse or "treat buying"

The holiday period is a dangerous time for impulse buyers, with so many great offers to be had. Try as much as possible to avoid impulse buying: although it is difficult, you will thank yourself for showing restraint in the long-run. If you see something that you know someone you know will like, first think "have I already bought them a gift?" and "is it within my price range?" - this will help you to decide whether you're making a good financial decision. It can also be easy when Christmas shopping to "treat" yourself to certain items to ease the stress of the shopping trip. However, it's important to remember that the "treat" will only bring a moment of happiness, compared to a happier holiday season where you are less worried about your finances. You may also be rewarded for your willpower in the January sales and manage to pick up that treat that you resisted for a fraction of the price.

How to give meaningful gifts without breaking the bank

Giving a good gift isn't all about its financial value. A good gift is a meaningful one: most people will be more touched over a gift with a good amount of thought behind it than one that costs a lot and isn't at all personal. Think about your prized possessions or gifts that you have received - your favourite items are probably relatively low value but are very sentimental to you. A great way to give something meaningful is to make it yourself. Most people are capable of making something, whether it is artwork, craft items, or homemade food or drink. Going to the effort of creating something from scratch is a very thoughtful thing to do, and the good thing is, it's budget-friendly. Simply spending an afternoon or evening crafting can be all it takes. There are many resources online to give you ideas of what to make. You can even buy cheap photo frames to frame photos of your favourite memories with your loved ones.

Suggest a family or friends "secret Santa"

If you know that other members of your family or friends are struggling with the cost of Christmas this year, suggest a secret Santa. If you don't know what this means, you essentially put everybody's name into a hat and each person pulls a name out without showing the others. That person is then responsible for buying a present for whoever they have chosen from the hat. This means everyone gets a gift but each person is only required to buy one gift.

Host "bring a dish" dinners

We can often get caught up in having to host dinners over the festive period. This can be a very expensive undertaking, particularly if you have a fairly large guest list. If you have found yourself agreeing to host a dinner then you might want to suggest that each guest (or couple/family) bring a dish to contribute to the meal. For example, one person may agree to bring vegetables, another may bring meat, another the dessert. This can not only reduce the cost for you significantly but also can take some of the pressure off when it comes to cooking if guests bring pre-cooked dishes.

Remember that life goes on

The holiday season can make us forget that we still have responsibilities outside of the festivities. This means remembering to keep money aside for everyday living and bills. It's not a good idea to spend everything you have for the sake of a few days of fun. You may have to budget carefully and make cuts, but remember that the most important thing is spending time with those you love.

Consider Creditspring membership loans

Sometimes budgeting and cutting costs where possible just doesn't cover the costs of the festive season. In these instances, you may need to borrow money to manage the expenses. Borrowing from banks can come with high rates of interest, which can end in you paying back much more than you borrowed. This is why a membership loan is a good option for those that need a little extra cash to fund the holidays but don't want this debt to spiral. Creditspring offer membership loans to customers. If you've not heard of a membership loan before, this essentially means that you pay for a Creditspring membership each month and in return, you have the option to take out two loans each year. Core members can borrow £250 twice in 12 months and Plus members can borrow £500 twice over 12 months.

Taking out membership loans with Creditspring is also a great way to improve your credit score. Improving your credit score will mean you'll be more likely to be accepted for credit, hire-purchases, loans, and mortgages in the future.

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