Here Are Some Ways You Can Reduce Financial Stress During the Holidays


NEW YORK—The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, but they can also be financially stressful. With gifts, social gatherings, and plane tickets home, the costs can start piling up.

Household expenses continue to rise and many Americans are expressing concern about their financial futures, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“Financial concerns are the number one anxiety-provoking issue [for the holidays],” said Dr. Petros Levounis, president of the American Psychiatric Association.

Here are recommendations from experts to reduce financial stress during the holidays:

Set Expectations

In many families, the holidays mean going all out with gift giving. But this can quickly become stressful if your finances make it hard to keep up.

Managing expectations is key, according to Sarah Foster, a analyst.

“During the holiday season, we often feel like not talking about money, not letting individuals know how much the gift we bought for them cost,” said Ms. Foster, who recommends leaving aside taboos and talking about how much you can afford to give this year.

Make a Budget

Setting a budget can help prevent stress during the holidays, Dr. Levounis said.

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“Try not to spend beyond your means. Make a budget and stick with it. Being with friends is more meaningful for our mental health than the commercial aspects of this season,” he said.

But not spending during the holiday season, when it seems like everyone is spending so much money on gifts, is easier said than done. If you struggle with overspending, Trae Bodge, a shopping expert, recommends that you set a spending limit for yourself.

Ms. Bodge recommends that you write a list of gifts you and stick to it when you are out shopping. If you tend to spend a lot buying gifts for yourself, she recommends that you set a specific limit.

“If you say ‘I only have $50 or $100, you’re going to spend more mindfully’,” she said.

Get Creative

There are several alternatives to spending a lot of money. They include:

Homemade Gifts

Lena Liu, 30, a Massachusetts-based fellow physician, has opted for giving homemade bracelets to some of her friends in the past.

“It can be really thoughtful and it actually ends up not being so expensive either,” Ms. Liu said. “They know that you put your work and your energy into designing the bracelet and getting the beads so they really appreciate that.”

Gift Cards

Gift cards can seem impersonal, but Ms. Foster argues that they are a great way to stay within your budget since you can plan out the exact amount you’re spending on each card.


In recent years, Ms. Bodge has noticed that younger people prefer to gift each other experiences rather than gifts. But she recommended that you don’t overspend on an expensive trip but rather find affordable fun activities to do with your loved ones.

Examples include going ice skating, hiking, or hosting a potluck. You could also gift a photoshoot or framed pictures or digital albums to commemorate happy experiences.

“It’s something that you and your loved ones can experience and enjoy together and take pictures and enjoy,” Ms. Bodge said.

The Gift of Time

If you can’t afford to take your parents on a trip or visit them during the holidays, giving them more of your time can be a true gift, Dr. Levounis said.

Whether it’s planning weekly video calls with your friend group or calling your grandma every day, non-monetary gifts can go a long way.

Create Your Own Traditions

Expectations or traditions you grew up with, such as buying expensive gifts for every member of your extended family, can cause stress during the holidays. This is what Ms. Bodge refers as “keeping up with the Joneses” which refers to trying to keep up with the expectations of other people rather than what is realistic for you to spend.

“Sometimes you may have a family member that is very financially well-off and they love to treat you to big, extravagant things. If you’re not in that same financial position, you should not feel compelled to return the favor,” said Ms. Bodge.

Creating your own new traditions can help reduce the stress of overspending because you feel pressured. Ms. Bodge recommends that you suggest something different to your family, friends, or at work.

Additionally, for people who are grieving or have a challenging relationship with their family, the holidays can represent a difficult time. It’s always good to remember to be extra kind and understanding during this time, Dr. Levounis said.

Divide Responsibilities

Ms. Bodge also recommends cutting costs by being selective with your expenses. For example, when it comes to hosting, even having a small group of people can be very expensive if you’re expected to pay for everything. If you’re in this situation, you could propose that everyone brings a dish.

“Maybe try a potluck or if you want to control the dinner menu, allow people to bring appetizer and drinks or dessert,” she said.

Communicate Your Feelings

If you are having financial difficulties, it can help to talk about it with your family and friends.

Ms. Liu, who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression during her first year as a medical resident, now feels more comfortable talking with her family after keeping her struggles to herself for six months.

“I’m of Chinese ethnicity and, in our culture, it’s very stigmatized to talk about mental health at all,” Ms. Liu said.

Her parents and twin sister helped her through the difficult time, and her father shared that he struggled to show emotions when he was growing up and wants her generation to be able to be more open.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

It’s the season where social events are happening every weekend but if there are causing you too much financial stress or hurting your mental health, it’s okay to be selective.

Additionally, if you start feeling uncomfortable about certain conversations with your family, Dr. Levounis recommends you take a break and limit your alcohol consumption.

Practice a Healthy Routine

While your stress might stem from financial struggles, negative feelings can spill over to other aspects of your life, making it hard to enjoy the holidays.

Dr. Levounis recommends taking some time out from social gatherings and Christmas shopping to do something for yourself, such as exercising.

“Long low-intensity activities seem to be the most helpful,” said Dr. Levounis, who suggested long walks or bike rides in nature.

Getting enough sleep is also critical. Turning off your electronics a few hours before bed can be a good practice.

Seek Professional Help If You Need It

If you are experiencing mental health struggles, there are several resources you can use to find professional help.

In the United States, you can dial 211 to speak with a mental health expert, confidentially and for free.

Other mental health resources include:

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

Crisis Text Line: Text the word ‘Home’ to 741-741

The Epoch Times copyright © 2023. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. They are meant for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or any other personal finance advice. The Epoch Times holds no liability for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.


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