Holidays can bring financial stress, here’s how to reduce it

NEW YORK (AP) — Vacations can be fun, but they can also be financially stressful.

A new poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Public Relations Center found that 57% of Americans said they could no longer afford the gifts they wanted to give as inflation eased but remained high.

Compared to the height of the pandemic, “there is less stress navigating the things that bring us together during the holidays. What is different from last year is how much financial stress there is,” says Rebecca Brendel. says Dr. American Psychiatric Association.

Here are some recommendations from the experts for reducing financial stress while on vacation.

set expectations

For many families, the holidays mean going all out in gift giving. But if your finances are having a hard time keeping up, this can quickly become stressful.

According to analyst Sarah Foster, managing expectations is key.

Foster recommends putting taboos aside and talking about how much you can give this year. .

Connecticut-based geriatric caregiver and singer Cathy Colmenares experienced financial hardship during the pandemic. Setting her expectations meant choosing to send less money to her family and friends in Venezuela.

“I didn’t mind having no money, as long as I could send money to help,” she said. “You have to put yourself and her family first.”

make a budget

Setting a budget can help prevent vacation stress, Brendel says.

“Making a decision and sticking to it really saves you the regret and stress after the spending happens and the January bills start coming in,” she said.

She recommends prioritizing who receives individual gifts and organizing gift games with the rest of your loved ones, such as white elephants and gift pools. encourages family members to be able to say what they really want.

If you’re looking for a budget template, Microsoft Office offers a version focused on holiday spending.

be creative

Instead of spending a lot of money, you have several options. They include:

— homemade gift

One of Brendel’s favorite homemade gifts is a cocktail mason jar. Simply place the cocktail ingredients into a mason jar and the recipient adds water or alcohol.

This year, Massachusetts-based resident doctor Lena Liu, 29, plans to gift handmade bracelets to her friends.

“It can be very thoughtful and it’s actually not that expensive,” Liu said. I know that, and I really appreciate that.”

– gift card

Gift cards may seem impersonal, but Foster argues that they’re a great way to stay on budget because you can plan the exact amount to spend on each card.

– experience

When a patient consults Karen Lynn Cassiday, managing director of the Anxiety Treatment Center in Greater Chicago, about the financial stress of vacationing, the first advice she gives is to give experiences, not items.

“Each person’s deepest need is to be known, heard and seen,” says Cassiday.

You can also gift a photo shoot, framed photo or digital album to commemorate the happy experience.

— gift of time

If you can’t afford to take your parents on vacation or visit them, giving them more time can be a true gift.

Whether you’re planning a weekly video call with a group of friends or calling your grandma every day, Menninger suggests thinking about non-monetary gifts that your loved ones will appreciate.

build your own tradition

The expectations and traditions you grew up with, such as buying expensive gifts for all members of your extended family, can cause stress during the holidays. I can do it.

This year, 22-year-old Valentina Chavez Otero of Norwalk, Connecticut, plans to celebrate the holidays by spending the day in New York City.

Chavez Otero, who has been facing financial instability since moving with her boyfriend from Cali, Colombia, said, “I’m not really into celebrating Christmas. I just want to walk the day and see new things.” It’s just,” he said.

share responsibility

With inflation making holiday meals even more expensive than usual, one way to cut costs is for hosts to avoid having to cover the full cost of the meal.

If your parents, grandparents, aunts, or friends are hosting at their home, you can suggest that they all bring food, Brendel said.

“A potluck is always fun. Not only can one take the stress out of preparation, but it can also reduce the burden on the organizers.This kind of idea can really reduce the financial burden and stress. I can do it.”

convey feelings

If you’re having financial troubles, talk to your family and friends, Brendel said.

After six months of battling himself, Liu, who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression during his first year as a resident, now feels more comfortable talking to his family. increase.

“I’m of Chinese ethnicity, but in our culture, talking about mental health is totally stigmatized,” Liu said.

Her parents and twin sister helped her through difficult times. I would like it to be more open.

practice a healthy routine

While your stress may stem from financial problems, negative emotions can spill over into other aspects of your life and make it harder to enjoy your vacation.

Menninger recommends taking a break from social gatherings and Christmas shopping and doing something for yourself, like exercise or meditation.

If you tend to forget to take a breath, Menninger recommends adding an alarm to your phone to remind you. The best time for alone time is between 4pm and 6pm.

For Lori Lebson, a 41-year-old mom from Massachusetts, it’s important to go for a run sometime during the day, even if it means waking up a little earlier than the kids.

Over the past few months, sleepless Chavez Otero has been watching sleep meditations on YouTube to ease his anxiety. Liu’s favorite relaxing activity is doing yoga before and after her hospital shift.

Liu also practices journaling, where she writes down things she’s grateful for in life.

Getting enough sleep is also important, so Menninger recommends turning off electronics a few hours before bed.

Seek professional help if needed

If you have mental health issues, there are several resources you can use to get professional help.

In the US, you can dial 211 to speak confidentially and toll-free with a mental health professional.

Other mental health resources include:

Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line: Text the word “home” to 741-741.

Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ Youth: 1-866-488-7386

Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860


The Associated Press receives support from the Charles Schwab Foundation for educational and descriptive reports to improve financial literacy. An independent foundation is separate from Charles Schwab and Co. Inc. AP is solely responsible for its journalism.

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