Whether you are ready for it or not, the holiday season is here.
Inevitably, this means holiday shopping stress is about to cripple even women with the best-laid plans.
First things first – if you experience holiday stress, you are not alone. Multiple studies have shown that holiday stress is rampant – especially for women.
The Vital Smarts Surviving the Most Wonderfully Stressful Time of the Year survey found the top 5 holiday stressors include:
- Just keeping up – trying to stay on top of all the activities, pressures, and expectations that come along with the holidays. (56 percent)
- Finances – blowing the budget to make the holidays extra special. (50 percent)
- Shopping – trying to find the “perfect” gift for that special someone. (46 percent)
- Family events – attending holiday dinners, parties, and gatherings with relatives. (33 percent)
- Physical health – trying to stay healthy, active, and sober at a time when food, drink, and festivities are in overabundance. (26 percent)
Looking at those holiday stress triggers makes me feel like Vital Smarts got inside my brain…I’m betting you feel the same way.
Like many women, I want to have a Pinterest-perfect holiday with tons of Instagram-worthy moments.
But the belief that I need to create a magical Christmas leads to holiday shopping stress.
A survey reported by the New York Post claims, “The pressure to have a ‘perfect Christmas’ also takes its toll on 41 percent of Americans, who confess to working ‘too hard’ to achieve it. The percentage jumps to almost half (49 percent) for moms, who put even more pressure on themselves.”
Specifically, this pressure causes holiday shopping stress where we spend money we don’t have or more money than we should.
According to the 2019 Bankrate Holiday Gifting Survey, “More than 6 out of 10 people told Bankrate they feel pressure to overspend on either presents, travel, social outings or charitable donations during the holiday season.”
The good news is that you can break the cycle of holiday shopping stress.
Follow these 12 tips to avoid holiday shopping stress and the temptation to go over budget.
#1 Ditch the Holiday Stress and Pressure for Perfection
Step one to breaking the holiday shopping stress cycle is changing your mindset.
April Lewis-Parks, director of education at the nonprofit debt relief agency Consolidated Credit, explains for Bankrate, “Between Instagram and Pinterest, and some of these other sites too, people get caught up in wanting to have these picture-perfect gifts and holiday moments, and they overspend because they think all of their friends are doing a certain level of holiday shopping and decorating and they want to match it.”
Real life is not a Hallmark movie.
What you see on social media is just your friend’s highlight reels.
Start the holiday season by recognizing the truth in these statements.
Once you understand that your quest for perfection based on these ideas is unattainable, it will be much easier to rein in your holiday shopping stress.
Don’t blow your holiday budget and go broke seeking perfection.
#2 Create a Budget Now
One way to avoid holiday shopping stress is to decide how much you will spend on whom and set money aside now.
Make a detailed list of people you plan to buy gifts for and how much you are willing to spend on each person.
Additionally, budget for holiday travel, charitable donations, and holiday festivities and food.
It’s ideal to factor in your holiday costs into your annual budget at the start of the year so you can set aside money each month. However, even if you have not been budgeting for the holidays all year, you can still create a budget now to eliminate some holiday stress.
#3 Once You Have the Budget, Shop Deals and Sales
Don’t wait until the last minute and don’t buy anything at full price.
Instead, start looking for deals and sales now.
This will give you more time to shop, and it will help you avoid rushing out at the last minute and spending more than you should.
For instance, this year’s Black Friday sales have already started for most major retailers.
Plus, with the advantage of extra time, you can utilize tools like CamelCamelCamel, which is an Amazon price checker.
This tool allows you to sign up to receive a notification once a holiday gift you want to purchase drops in price. Even better – it allows you to request a notification when the product drops to the price you are willing to pay.
#4 Don’t Go beyond the Budgeted Amount
With a budget, you should have a clear cap on your spending for each category and each person.
Let’s say you set a price cap at $40 per person.
If you find the “perfect” gift for Aunt Sally that costs $50, find something else.
Another tip for gift buying – keep a list of what you have purchased and spent per person to avoid overspending. For example, it is really easy to overspend when buying several small items.
Speaking of budgets, beware of upsells online and bundle shopping. For example, an online retailer may suggest products “frequently bought together” or offer a discount on a bundle.
In a report from Science Daily, “In one study, consumers were more likely to purchase a coffee maker that came with a milk frother than the coffee maker alone only when it was compared to the same coffee maker without the milk frother. When the bundle was contrasted with the single product, consumers were more likely to notice the add-on and realize that the bundle was a better value.”
We’ve all fallen victim to this marketing strategy.
While it can seem like a better value, if it makes you go over your budget, it is not worth the extra money – especially if the additional bundled product is unnecessary.
#5 Don’t Buy More to Maximize Savings
We’ve all fallen victim to a BOGO sale.
A Buy One Get One sale seems great in theory.
But the truth is, we often wind up spending more money than we planned just because of the sale.
Most of the time, you truly aren’t getting one item for free; the price of the second item is usually built into the first.
Or what about the times you have bought something just because it was 50% off or on clearance?
It’s hard to pass up a deal that good.
But, if you haven’t budgeted for it, then you just went over budget to maximize savings. The only thing you maximized is your debt.
[Related Read: 5 Ways to Use a Credit Card Wisely]
#6 Avoid Shopping for Yourself
The holidays are a great time to show your friends and family that you love them, but it isn’t time to treat yo’self.
Girl, I know how hard this is!
All the sales are right in our faces screaming at us to “Buy! Buy! Buy!”
Resist the temptation to shop for yourself, and add the stuff you want to your wish list. Maybe Santa will deliver it.
#7 Only Put Purchases on Credit Cards If You Can Pay Off the Next Statement
Holiday shopping stress only gets worse when you put off paying for all your holiday purchases later.
Check out these statistics from Magnify Money’s 2019 post-holiday debt survey:
- Americans took on an average of $1,325 of holiday debt in 2019.
- 44% of consumers took on debt in the 2019 holiday season, and the majority (57%) didn’t plan on doing so. 52% of Generation Xers and 50% of millennials added holiday debt, versus just 36% of baby boomers.
- 78% of those with holiday debt wouldn’t be able to pay it off come January, including 15% who were only making minimum payments.
- 58% of indebted consumers were stressed about their holiday debt. Millennials and Gen Xers reported being the most stressed at 68% and 63%, respectively. Baby boomers were the least stressed, at 37%.
I don’t want to be a Grinch, but if you know you will not be able to pay off your credit card the next statement, don’t use it!
If you do plan to make purchases on credit cards, then use your credit card wisely.
#8 Expensive Gifts Do Not Equal the Best Gifts
It is tempting to believe that expensive equals better. When it comes to gift giving, ignore this idea.
Your loved one will appreciate whatever you give them as long as you have given their gift thought.
For example, a photo of the two of you in a nice frame is just as nice (if not nicer) than a box of expensive beauty treatments.
#9 Cull Your Gift List
Limit whom you are gifting to this year.
Talk to people you are gifting now, and tell them you are cutting back.
I get it. This can be awkward.
But you’ll be surprised at how most people respond (as in they will be all for cutting back, too).
In Bankrate’s report, Lewis-Parks suggests, “The more honesty that can surround the holidays, the better […] Other family members and friends will probably be relieved if one person does bring it up and says, ‘Hey, I want to try to streamline holiday gift-giving this year. I love you, but why don’t we come to some kind of agreement where we only gift to children in the family or where everybody buys one gift and doesn’t feel obligated to buy for everyone.’”
#10 Know the Store’s Return Policy Before You Buy
How many times have you received a gift you couldn’t (or wouldn’t use) and didn’t receive a gift receipt?
The person who bought it wasted money.
You don’t want to do the same thing.
Know the store’s return policy, and get gift receipts. If you spend your hard-earned money, you want to be sure the person can enjoy the gift.
#11 Keep Records of All Purchases
Keep track of all your holiday spending.
Whether you have an Excel sheet or store all your receipts in an envelope, you need to know what you bought and how much you spent.
This will also prevent you from going over budget in certain areas or on certain people.
#12 If You Overspend, Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you do get a little carried away with Christmas cheer, don’t beat yourself up.
Instead, learn from it, and make a plan to get back on budget.
If you know you feel jolly spending money at the holidays, then add in a holiday category to your 2021 budget where you can build up a holiday spending fund throughout the year.
Don’t let holiday shopping stress ruin the most wonderful time of the year now or later.
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Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner or expert. All information in the post is my opinion and should not be used as financial advice. This is based solely on my experiences. Any action you take based on the recommendations from this blog is at your discretion. This post contains some affiliate links. If you click on an affiliate link and purchase a product/service, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend products, services, and/or businesses that I love and believe will add value to you.