Financial Stress and the Holidays: Mindful spending strategies

link to article about financial stress during the holidays

therapist Mariah HudlerBy Mariah Hudler, LCSW

In Midtown Sacramento

October 16, 2019

Financial Stress and the Holidays:
Mindful Spending Strategies

The holidays are quickly approaching, as evidenced by offerings of speciality lattes and decorations available to consumers in these early days of October! Holidays are meant to create and share joy but can also be a source of financial stress. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans spent over $700 billion dollars during the holiday season (comprised of November and December) in 2018. These numbers do not include money spent on food, baking or travel.  For some, spending can result in debt. According to a survey by MagnifyMoney, consumers added $1,230 in debt during the 2018 holiday season, compared with $1,054 in 2017. 

Now that we have identified pertinent statistics, take a moment to reflect on past years and how you felt after the holiday season. Were you happy you underspent? Were you satisfied with your spending or did you feel remorse for overspending? If you placed yourself or your loved one in the latter two questions you likely experienced financial stress which we will define for this article as causing feelings of fear, worry or regret related to your finances. Financial stress can steal the joy and cheer from the holiday season. It may start small but result in stress during the holidays or depression once they are over. However, there are ways to counter this stress and still enjoy your holidays. 

As you sip your speciality latte (pumpkin spice for me), take the time to think about this holiday season and be prepared. Below are 3 spending strategies to help make your holiday season as financially stress free as possible. 

  1. Make a plan! Decide ahead of time how, when, and where you will spend your money. For example, a lot of Americans put together a list for their holiday cards. Why not put together a list of everything you anticipate to spend on (food, gifts, parties, decorations) and associated costs. A simple excel sheet is all that is needed. Identify who or what and how much will be reasonable amount to spend.  Knowledge is power. Doing this now gives you a road map of where to drive your money. If you are unsure what is reasonable or have not set out a budget, make a date with yourself, a friend, or your partner to outline your why during the holiday season. Mindfully reflect on what matters. Is it to serve? Is it to spend time with family and friends? Is it to practice minimalism? Is it religious or tradition? Discuss and agree how much is reasonable to spend or generate ideas for non-monetary gifts or opt for gift exchanges or draws to make the cost more affordable. 
  2. Once you have a plan in place, you need to implement it! A byproduct of your plan is that you already outlined your financial boundaries for this holiday season – the why, how, when and where. Well done! A lot of my work as a financial therapist includes working with clients on boundaries. If you don’t have boundaries, you may feel drained, exhausted or overwhelmed. Having boundaries equals self-care, focus, truth, strength and respect. Let’s flesh this out. You are caring for yourself by identifying that the holidays can cause financial stress. You are focusing by identifying your values and how you want to implement them. Making a plan is a reflection of your financial truth and limitations. You are gaining strength by taking responsibility and communicating to others how and/or how much you will contribute. And, finally, you are earning respect from yourself and others by sticking to your plan. 
  3. Practice Mindfulness. Breathe, connect, stay present, reflect and most of all spread joy and cheer. The holiday season goes quickly and sometimes we forget to care for ourselves because we get out of our routines. As financial stress isn’t the only stress you may experience during the holiday season, remember to be good to yourself. Take 10-15 minutes daily (wake up earlier, incorporate it into your work day, exercise time, or into any existing routine) to do a mindful activity. My favorite quick one is to wrap my arms around myself, close my eyes, take a deep breath and hug myself!

About the author

Mariah Hudler, LCSWMariah is a Financial Therapist in Sacramento, California who works with individuals, couples and entrepreneurs set on improving their financial health. She is passionate about helping others to take mindful control of their finances. She does online or in-person counseling as well as group counseling. Join Mariah’s Festive Finances at Noon Group Therapy starting in early November. See for more information.  


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