The spirit of giving is part of what makes the holiday season so special. Too often, however, outsized expectations create financial and emotional stress. Read on for some ideas about how to remain generous without breaking the bank.
Holiday financial stress
Even before the pandemic, 61% of Americans said they dreaded the holidays because of the financial strain, according to a 2019 Holiday Spending Survey by LendingTree. And yet, according to the consulting firm BRG, 76% of people expect to spend the same or more this holiday season.
Data from the LendingTree survey show that the pressure to overspend is leading to significant stress:
- Seven in 10 people feel pressured to buy gifts.
- One in three people lose sleep over financial concerns during the holidays.
- About one in four people expect to go into debt to purchase presents.
- Almost one in five individuals are still paying off debt from 2020 holiday purchases.
Presence instead of presents
For many people, the social distancing aspect of the global pandemic has increased the importance of being together. This could be a great year to reset expectations and create new traditions around time instead of money.
There are countless ways to give of your time, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- As you prepare meals, make extras and then share them with family, friends, or neighbors.
- Provide transportation to medical or other appointments for an acquaintance in need. It can save them money and provide you with opportunities to talk.
- For friends or family with children, offer to babysit so they can have an evening to prepare for the holidays or just take time for themselves.
- Decorate, hang holiday lights, or offer to do yard work for a neighbor who needs an extra hand.
- Get a group together and volunteer at a food bank or another community organization.
Giving of your time is always a wonderful option. But, realistically, you’ll also be making some monetary purchases. As you prepare for the holiday season, keep these tips in mind:
- Share financial limitations with family and friends. It may be a relief to them, too, if they are also facing financial limitations. Being transparent about finances can be mutually beneficial, and together you can find low-cost gifts for the holidays.
- Limit the number of gifts you buy. Tell friends that you’ll have to meet for coffee instead of exchanging gifts this year. If you have a large family, draw names so that each person only buys for one other family member.
- Ask people what they need. Providing funds for rent, utilities, groceries, or car repairs could mean more than any store-bought gift.
Be aware of your needs
As you look to make the holidays special for those around you, keep your own financial and emotional needs in mind. For additional help, talk to your employer about financial education, mental health offerings, or other benefits that could make a difference this holiday season.
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