Jalene Hahn: How to manage financial stress during the holidays

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Personal Finance: Jalene HahnThis year feels as though the holiday hype will be around longer. When I was much younger, the Christmas season didn’t start until after Thanksgiving. This year, holiday decorations and sales were taking place before Halloween.

As we enter the holiday season, we have expectations as we remember the joy and traditions of past holidays while trying to create new memories and traditions. There is also the temptation to overspend, over-celebrate and overeat. This can all lead to physical, mental and financial exhaustion and stress.

Here are some tried-and-true ways to manage stress and end the year on a more positive note.

Discuss low-cost celebration ideas: Have a family discussion of what is most important about the holidays and if there are ways to honor those traditions while still meeting affordable spending limits. You might not be the only one feeling the pinch; others might also be looking to cut back.

Another way to show your appreciation and love for someone is to give them the gift of time. Coupon books for experiences, a batch of cookies or having friends over for a pitch-in can be wonderful gifts.

Establish a realistic spending plan: Make sure you include all categories. You might need to increase your spending on additional food, shopping trips, travel, festive clothing and decorations as well as gifts and charitable contributions. Knowing how much you plan to spend and sticking to it can prevent overspending and reduce stress. To accommodate those extras, it might mean cutting back in other areas.

Identify and address financial stressors: Take stock of different financial situations and pay attention to where money causes stress. Work with your family to find alternatives or ways to manage money more efficiently.

Avoid temptation: Limiting time in shopping areas and avoiding impulsive spending can help manage finances. Leaving credit and debit cards at home and carrying only a set amount of cash can prevent overspending.

Most of my shopping is now done online. I have a habit of putting items in my virtual shopping cart and not checking out until later. That pause gives me time to consider if the item fits my budget and would be appreciated.

Practice mindfulness: When you start to feel financial pressures building, be sure to give yourself some grace and take the time to understand your feelings. Try to identify when you felt this way before and what actions you can take now. Practice breathing exercises so you can reset and reframe the situation. Reducing financial pressures can aid in maintaining emotional balance.

Find joy and practice self-care: Amid financial and holiday stress, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care. Treating oneself doesn’t necessarily involve material purchases; it can include activities that bring joy, like taking a walk or enjoying a relaxing shower. Taking breaks from chaos is essential for mental well-being.

Remember what’s important: Prioritizing relationships over material possessions is essential during the holiday season. Scaling back on expenses when necessary and focusing on the sentimental value of the season promotes a healthier perspective.

These actions can be taken at any time of year but are helpful in dealing with holiday financial and other stressful situations. One other activity I find beneficial is to take some time to practice gratitude. Studies have shown that those who practice gratitude can positively impact their finances. Gratitude shifts the focus away from material desires, emphasizes true priorities and encourages charitable giving. Daily practices like listing things to be grateful for and expressing thanks to others can enhance gratitude and contribute to a positive financial mindset.

Managing financial stress during the holidays involves open communication, realistic budgeting, mindfulness, self-care and recognizing the importance of gratitude in fostering a healthy financial perspective. Taking conscious steps to navigate the holiday season can lead to a more enjoyable and less stressful experience. Many of the actions, if practiced year-round, will enhance your overall emotional and financial well-being.•

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Hahn is a certified financial planner and owner of WWA Planning and Investments in Columbus. She can be reached at 812-379-1120 or jalene@wwafp.com.

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