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Unwrap peace of mind: 5 tips to reduce holiday stress

What we'll cover

  • How to spot your money stressors

  • Best practices for holiday spending

  • Tips to minimize financial anxieties

If you're anxious about spending this holiday season, you're not alone. Last year, nearly one in five holiday shoppers exceeded their planned budget.

Check out my tips below to avoid the post-holiday spending hangover.

1. Do a holiday gut check

Before you dive into all of the holiday fanfare, take a minute to set some guardrails for your finances.

Now is a great time to determine your holiday values. I head into the season with an intention, whether it's to find ways to give back to my community or make ample time for family.

Use that foundation to build your budget and determine where you want to spend your money. How much do you want to spend on gifts, parties, holiday outings?

By taking a beat now to think through these seasonal objectives, you can avoid getting caught up in the moment once you're in the throes of the holiday spirit.

Take some of that pressure off by focusing on the value of those gifts, rather than how many there are.

2. Stay off social media

We all love mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, but doing so can be stressful at any time of year. During the holidays, those anxieties multiply tenfold. From can't-miss deals to targeted ads for Black Friday, not to mention the constant danger of comparing your holiday plans to what everyone on your feed is posting: Social media is rife with potential stressors.

You don't have to go cold turkey, but be mindful of how much time you spend scrolling. Your stress levels will thank you.

3. Be wary of emotional spending

The holidays are a joyful time. They're also full of stress, guilt, FOMO and an endless list of emotions to keep in check. It's easy for that pressure to push you to overspend. Our recent survey found most shoppers plan to spend more this year than they did last year despite inflation, increased debt and lower savings rates.

Those guidelines and values you set for yourself at the start of the season can help keep you grounded in those moments when your emotions are getting the better of you.

4. Put quality over quantity

Take some of the pressure off by focusing on the value (literally and personally) of gifts, rather than how many there are.

With my family, I set a limit on how many gifts I give. My kids usually receive a limited number of presents, and I try to make at least one an experience. I also give gifts that fit a theme I know they'll love. Last year my daughter got all things gymnastics — books, leotards, lessons. Get creative and find what resonates with your kids, family and friends. It really is the thought that counts.

5. Take future you into account

We are wired to prioritize immediate satisfaction over longer-term rewards — it's a phenomenon called hyperbolic discounting. During the most wonderful time of the year, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment and overestimate the value of a discount, but that can lead to unnecessary overspending, and no one wants holiday debt.

Look out for your future self by going back to your seasonal intentions to keep your spending on track.

Keep things merry and bright

The end of the year is full of festive moments and stressful situations. Dial down your anxieties this season by focusing on your holiday intentions and your financial goals for December and beyond.

Jack Howard serves as a strategic program and communication lead to establish Ally as the leading voice in financial health and wellness, with a focus on money psychology and behavioral financial education. She’s also the secretary for the Ally Charitable Foundation. As a passionate advocate for financial social inclusion, Jack is committed to be a change-maker by creating programs that help prepare Brown and Black communities with tools for wealth creation that recognize the significant historical wealth disparities faced by those communities. 

An active professional, Jack serves on the national board of directors for the American Bankers Association Foundation and Society for Financial Education and Professional Development, and the Boys and Girls Club of SE Michigan. In 2022, she was recognized as an Outstanding Alumni by the Communications Arts and Sciences College of her undergraduate alma mater, Michigan State University.

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