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Plan for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

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Happy holidays! For many of us, they aren’t all happy. A 2015 Healthline survey found that 53 percent of gen Xers and millennials cite finances as their number one source of stress around the holidays. The funny part is that while there are many things we cannot plan for in life (and that’s why we have an emergency fund), the holidays happen every single year. We can plan for them!

The sooner we start planning, the less money-related stress we’ll feel when they arrive. Here are six steps that will help you get organized and prepared for the holidays. It’s never too late to start planning for this year, and it’s never too early to start planning for next year!


Step 1: Get clear on what’s important. What about the holidays matter to you? What are your favorite holiday memories? What made those memories special? Be honest! There isn’t a right or wrong answer.

Keep these things in mind as you move forward with the exercises. Are you spending money on things that bring you joy? Do you feel a lot of pressure to spend money on things that won’t make your holidays happier?


Step 2: Make a list. What do you plan to spend money on this year ?Make this list as exhaustive and specific as possible. Some ideas…

  • Gifts
  • Parties
  • Hostess gifts
  • New clothes
  • Additional dining out
  • Extra transit
  • Travel

Make your list specific. For example, break each gift down by person, list specific trips you are taking, etc..

Step 3: Map out the cost. Estimate how much everything on your list will cost. For example, if you plan on bringing a bottle of wine to your friend’s holiday party? How much do you plan to spend on it? Running to a party right from work? Will you need to take an Uber?

Step 4:
Make your list fab frugal.
Is it possible to reduce these numbers while maintaining or improving their fabulousness? Think about every item on your list. Are there areas where you can save money without sacrificing? This will look different for each of us as we all value different things! ..

  • Make pacts with family and friends. Opt to put a price cap on gifts, or do a group dinner in place of exchanging gifts. You might feel embarrassed to bring this up, but chances are they’ll be relieved, too!
  • Suggest a Secret Santa with family or co-workers as an alternative for buying gifts for everyone.
  • Plan ahead and make it thoughtful.
  • Just say no! Say no to things you’d rather not do. You know yourself best. What will bring you joy and what will just add to your stress?

Step 5:
Create your holiday fund
. The goal is to have the money there for you when you need it so you don’t have to dip into your savings or put extra expenses on your credit card.

  • How much do you need for the holidays and by when? If you’re booking travel, use the date that you’ll need to book the travel (i.e. when you need the cash.)
  • How much will you put aside per paycheck?
  • Where will that money go? This might sound like a no-brainer but we want to know exactly where this money is and how it’s differentiated from other savings.
  • Set up an automatic transfer of the decided amount. This way, you won’t have to think about it again.

Step 6:
Start now for next year.
Repeat steps 1-5 for next year’s holidays. If you plan to spend $1000 next year and start saving a year in advance, you’d only have to put aside $38 per paycheck (if you get paid every two weeks). That’s way more palatable than spending all $1,000 in November.

Make a plan and then check in with what you actually spent this year to see if you want to adjust.  


Woohoo! You can now sit back, relax & enjoy the holiday season!

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