A few weeks ago at my local Safeway store, as I made my way to the checkout line, I walked by shelves full of discounted Halloween goods sitting next to Thanksgiving offerings and a few steps further down, all the Christmas merchandize you could ever want. It was a little disorienting to see this mix of holiday goods crammed into the shelves next to each other. After all, it was barely November. Time must have shifted and gotten truncated was all I could think, as the familiar feeling of holiday stress started creeping in. The impulse to buy a few items ‘just in case’ was strong and I suppose that’s exactly what the merchants wanted.
While I resisted the temptation then and there, I couldn’t help but come home feeling like I was somehow already behind on holiday shopping and strangely over budget at the same time. However, something else stuck with me too, and this was perhaps not what Safeway had intended: I did not want to go back for turkey motif napkins or a Santa centerpiece! No, I was hit with the feeling that I really shouldn’t let myself get overwhelmed and stressed out by seasonal displays at my local grocery store. I felt that rather than have a knee-jerk reaction and buy a little of this and some of that, maybe it was time to make a plan – for the holidays for sure, but more importantly for the year ahead.
We are easy prey during the holiday season for stress in general and financial stress in particular. There are gifts to buy, cards to send, parties to go to, and family to visit and/or entertain and there are extra expenses all along the way. It’s no wonder we get worn out this time of year and that our personal finances take a hit.
While I could figure out how to deal with my general holiday anxieties, I wasn’t quite sure how to minimize my financial stress, so I did what I often do these days when uncertainty strikes: I Google! As you can imagine, there are plenty of sites, articles and publications that deal with finances of all kinds. And there was no shortage of good ideas and useful tips (see below for links to some of the articles I found inspiring). I should say here that if you are looking for a more tailored and specific plan, consulting a professional is most likely your best course of action. As for me, I just wanted some tips for how to deal in the moment, a bit of self-soothing if you will.
So, my general holiday worries were handled pretty easily with a couple of lists of gifts to buy and ship (now that can burn a hole in your pocket pretty quickly), cards to write, groceries to stock up on and people to contact. One idea about managing financial stress that I read about and that spoke to me had to do with creating an overarching strategy based on habits, priorities and goals and so while writing my holiday lists I decided to make a ‘financial overview’ as well, just to get started. I wrote down my responsibilities, goals and dreams. It felt really good to take that first step – it was remarkably calming!
By: Felicia Shermis