This is a time of year many of us look forward to. It is also a time that some folks tend to dread. Parents, spouses, children – holiday season spending does not discriminate; we all face stresses from finances at one time or another, but this particular shopping period tends to have the most significant negative impacts on our wallets and minds.

Today, let us explore some ways you can get past these needless complications and focus on what the holidays really are about: togetherness, fun, and making more positive memories.

Identifying Needs and Wants

If there is a great deal on and you cannot help but want to buy something – that new 4K television or game console, for instance – fighting holiday-season pricing can be a significant challenge. When we are actively looking for ways to spend rather than save, as is the norm towards the end of the year, more opportunities arise to buy more than what you need. This can create needless stress and anxiety, and nobody enjoys the experience of having buyer’s remorse. The act of begrudgingly returning an item out of financial guilt can be just as taxing on the mind, bringing about emotions such as fear and sadness that are best avoided.

Long story short, what do you need? Are you approaching purchases during the holiday season in a practical manner? If you are overdoing it in terms of spending, now is the time to throttle back and focus on what matters most: the health, safety, and peace of mind of your household. Material goods will never address any of these.

“Giving” and Giving: Two Different Things

You probably have at least one relative who simply “must” get someone a present during the holidays. They likely hound them for details on what they want and will not take no for an answer. Much of the time, there is an underlying desire of the gift-giver that drives this determination, and they may not even realize it. For instance, perhaps a divorced mother feels pangs of guilt and wants to numb her children’s pain by showering them with distractions. Or, maybe a friend who had vanished for years has come back into your life and feels this is his/her way of “catching up.” While guilt is the primary driver of this form of giving, the real holiday spirit comes from enjoying what we have and cherishing the companionship of others. You do not need a Best Buy gift receipt to make this happen, and those who are healthy to be around do not normally expect such gestures of goodwill as it is.

Proactive, Not Prey

A recurring problem we see year after year is that plenty of individuals get sucked into the “holiday spirit” promoted by local stores and major brands – or, at least, their interpretation of it. Beneath that thickened veneer of decorations, catchy jingles and jaw-dropping deals is a singular function: to entice you to spend. Online stores are among the worst offenders as it is nearly impossible to avoid being blasted with tantalizing ads, especially in the month leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Of course, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of a seriously good deal, but you need to apply serious thought to whether it is worth it in the long run – and whether you are spending beyond your means as it is. Do not become the prey; instead, become the proactive one who breaks away from the masses. You may find yourself enjoying the holiday season with fewer stress triggers – including financial ones – if you manage to pull this off.

Planning Ahead

If you are planning on making a few purchases when the prices are at their lowest, we do not blame you, especially as various items are becoming more expensive. The optimal strategy is just that – be strategic. Budget in advance put all your ducks in a row, and decide which purchases are urgent and/or sensible. Then, determine whether there are any that you can afford to put off. Smart holiday shopping is to spend sparingly, without having to stretch your budget or sacrifice savings. Otherwise, you may end up living with a great deal of debt, frustration, and more things cluttering your home than you really need – the latter in itself can contribute to anxiety, depression, and stress in general. It may even bring about hoarding tendencies and encourage social isolation, especially if you surround yourself with too many distractions from the real world.

The holiday season is a special time, and we want to see you make the most of it in the right ways. From a mental health perspective, that means finding ways to feel satisfied spending only what you need, with a little extra as a treat or for gifts, but without overdoing it. If you need help with your financial planning during this hectic time of year, contact us today to get in touch with an experienced therapist who can help you understand your needs and wants.