5 Holiday Mistakes That Could Cost You

This article is courtesy of Darlene Aderoju who works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support Americans to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.

The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to enjoy vacations, catch

woman in santa hat with scary face and an armful of gifts

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up with family and old friends, and eat great food. While the holidays are about quality time and making memories, it’s easy to get caught up with spending money. Here are five holiday mistakes to avoid this year so you can enjoy the season with your finances intact:

You’re shopping without a budget or list.

It’s incredibly kind to get each of your relatives, colleagues, and in-laws thoughtful presents and cards to show them your appreciation, but your wallet might be crying for help after your first few purchases. One of the biggest financial mistakes you can make during the holidays is shopping without a spending plan.

When you’re shopping for loved ones, you’re imagining how happy they’ll be when they receive your gift. But remember, financial responsibilities don’t go on vacation during the holidays. Create a budget for your holiday spending. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, create a list that fits your budget.

This way, you’ll be able to purchase the items you plan for and know for sure that you didn’t bust your budget. Here’s a free holiday budget printable to get you started.

You’re volunteering your home, food, and car to everyone.

If you’re the person that always offers food, transportation, and lodging to everyone, you might want to try a new approach this year. It’s thoughtful to go the extra mile during the holidays, but don’t stretch yourself or your pockets too thin.

Consider splitting the responsibilities with your friends and family. You might not think you’re overspending by being so accommodating, but the more people there are in your home, the more likely you are to receive a high utility bill at the end of the month. You’ll also be surprised at how many trips you might have to make to the grocery store to restock on food, drinks, and toiletries.

You can suggest hosting a potluck style gathering this year. With a potluck, each guest is responsible for bringing at least one dish, beverage, or party supply. At a minimum, you’ll save money on food and drinks. If you need napkins or disposable utensils and plates, you can make one guest responsible for those items as well.

If you have a ton of relatives who need to be picked up from the airport or train station, see if you can rope in other family members to help with pick-ups and drop-offs. This will help you save on gas, time, and energy.

Splitting responsibilities will help you enjoy the holidays without being completely stressed out.

You’re shopping too late.

So you’ve created your list and a tight budget, that’s great! Don’t wait until the last minute to actually make your purchases. By then, sales may be over and supplies will be limited.

Start your shopping early so you can snag deals while they’re still available. When you have ample time to cross items off your list, you’ll have time to compare prices and bargain hunt. Some stores offer price matching, so keep that in mind as you start shopping and placing your online orders.

Time is of the essence. Shopping early will give you time to figure out what you actually need and get those items at the best price. When you wait until the last minute, you’re much more likely to bust your budget because you’ll just be rushing to cross people off your list instead of specific items that fall within your budget. Here are some tips to help you save while you shop.

You’re relying on your credit cards.

Do your best NOT to rely on your credit cards during the holidays. If you can’t afford to buy it now, don’t create a bill for yourself later. Once the holidays are over, you’ll be faced with a potential mountain of debt that you’ve built.

The holidays are a great time to enjoy the company of your loved ones, but you shouldn’t feel like the only way to show your love is through expensive presents and festive decor. Enjoy the holidays in a way that doesn’t destroy your finances. This year, make it a goal to spend quality time.

If an unplanned expense does occur during the holidays and you have to use your credit, here are some tips for using your credit card.

You’re trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Don’t make the holidays a competition about who can wear the most expensive clothes, buy the flashiest gifts, or serve the swankiest dinner. Make the holidays about creating lasting memories and enjoying time with your loved ones, or simply yourself.

De-stressing After the Holidays

The holidays are over, so the celebrations, gala festivities, and merriment are coming tothree women walking an end. No more sleeping well into the morning hours, eating a late breakfast or partying away into the night. No matter how hard we try to stretch those vacation days, an untimely end hits us in the face. Winding down is never easy.

Coming off your high and returning to the mundane affairs of real life is often difficult. For some, the return to the workplace is slow and painful, but routine eventually catches up and they find themselves back on track. For others, a deep feeling of “blues” sets in, which can sometimes be accompanied by loss of appetite, feelings of wistfulness and homesickness. It may be a mild depression or sense of anxiety, making work productivity suffer as social activities start to dissolve.

In general, most people don’t need to resort to any special moves for bouncing back to their normal daily agenda. But there are many who cannot come off their holiday euphoria without disorientation. For those who find themselves stuck and unable to move on, psychologists have devised various methods for coping. Assuming you have had a positive holiday, here are some ideas for an easier return to life after vacation:

Slow Down and Relax:

The last day of the holiday vacation is usually the most difficult. We try to squeeze in as much as we can as the hours quickly tick by. Therapists believe we should do just the opposite. Pull back on the schedule with calming activities to help our bodies adjust and return to the normal habits we left behind.

Get Someone on the Inside:

Reduce the stress of returning to an office filled with piles of paperwork by contacting a coworker who might not have taken off for the holiday. She/he can fill you in on the important happenings during your absence and can identify the most urgent assignments prior to your return so you can get started right away.

Know Your Nostalgia:

If you’ve been traveling during the holidays, you may be one of those people who feel that focusing on memories of pleasant times can help you move back into daily life. Seeing photos and videos of the fun and excitement experienced during the holidays can lift spirits and provide a pleasant backdrop to feelings of nostalgia. For some people, though, reliving past events with their sensation of relaxation and enjoyment can trigger increased feelings of discomfort and anxiety, thus thwarting any efforts to deal with the here and now.

Just Breathe:

One of the best ways to decompress after an extended holiday is to engage in yoga and breathing techniques to help calm yourself and reach deep into your inner self. Proper breathing is something you should practice year-round, as physicians have found that most of us do not breathe properly.

Taking deep inhalations and long exhalations has been proven to encourage brain activity as well as stimulate effective blood circulation throughout our bodies. Focusing on deep breathing will help transition you from a state of exhilaration to a normal level of existence. Meditation is often used as an adjunct to deep breathing and has been proven to help reduce the stress of returning from a holiday.

A Moment in the Sun:

Anyone who flies often knows about the impacts of jet lag. Jet lag is caused by an interruption in your sleep-wake cycle, which is regulated by the body’s internal clock. To cut down on this effect, doctors advise travelers to get out into the sun as soon as they can upon disembarking. When the UV radiation from the sun hits your eyes, it helps restore the sleep-wake cycle balance. Since similar symptoms can occur when coming down from a heightened experience to a normal state, even a short 15-minute walk in the sun can help you decompress from your extended holiday.

Start Moving:

Exercising or just moving around in a focused manner sends lots of endorphins rushing to your brain while using up the stress hormones that enable us to cope with mental and physical difficulties.

Planning Your Next Vacation:

Some therapists suggest that, to get over post-holiday blues, you should immediately start working on your next vacation. Others recommend avoiding this approach and instead encourage focusing on the present, not the future.

Talk it Out:

If you’re still finding difficulty re-entering your pre-holiday existence, try having a heart-to-heart with a close friend or relative. They may be able to help you sort out your thoughts by acting as a sounding board or offering solutions you may not have considered.

Your Turn: How do you de-stress after the holidays? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

The Daily Telegraph, “Beat the Post Holiday Blues
https://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-the-Post%E2%80%90Vacation-Blues
http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/a26860/ways-to-beat-the-post-holiday-blues/
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/travel-talk/15-ways-to-beat-the-postholiday-blues-31349912.html

Surviving the Holidays With Your Sanity Intact

The holiday season is a special time. With Charlie Brown on TV and carols on the radio, Image of cookies in the shape of a sleighand an ever-growing list of people to shop for, it’s easy to get carried away.  The pressure to over-shop and overspend when you’re rushing to buy everything on your list can be overwhelming. No worries, though; we’ve got you covered! Read on for fantastic pre-and post-holiday tips to ensure you’ll have a holly, jolly December without breaking the bank.

6 Pre-Holidays Tips

Revise your gift list

Gift giving is a treasured tradition, but chances are, lots of the people you exchange gifts with would be as relieved as you’d be to be taken off your list. Narrow down your gift list. Talk to coworkers and acquaintances about just exchanging cards this year, or make a deal to only exchange homemade or inexpensive gifts.

This way, you can focus on buying special gifts for those closest to you instead of generic gifts for everyone you’ve ever met and their cousins, too.

 Organize a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa

Still got a list that’s a mile long? Try one of these creative solutions! A Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa activity not only saves money and stress, it adds a bit of intrigue and playfulness to the holiday. These swaps are great for family gatherings, office parties and neighborhood get-togethers.  Everyone involved only needs to bring a single gift – and it’s always fun.

Set a reasonable price cap on gifts so no one ends up leaving with a candy cane while the person next to them hauls off a flat-screen TV.  You can check out online tips for organizing a fun and affordable Yankee Swap or Secret Santa.

Bake holiday treats

Another great way to reduce the financial weight of your gift list is to break out the baking supplies and start whipping up your own holiday treats instead of buying gifts.

It’s hard to know exactly what your friend will like as a gift, but no one turns down a tin of homemade holiday cookies! Use your favorite traditional recipes, or try something new and different.

 Make a budget and stick to it

This tip sounds a bit obvious.  After all, we all plan to stick to a budget, right?  But make this the year it really happens!

Don’t set yourself a ballpark budget.  Set an absolute limit to how much you will spend on the holidays this season.  This will encourage you to plan your spending rather than grabbing impulse items as you move through a store.  It will also encourage you to look for great deals, which brings us to our next tip.

 Make use of holiday deals….but don’t get distracted

It’s easy to become hypnotized by deals. Prices drop and we go wild, spending more than we originally intended because we don’t want to miss out on those “crazy, low holiday prices.”

Take a deep breath.  Make use of these deals wisely by buying items on your list at a discounted price.  But don’t be tantalized by the deals to the point that you buy things you don’t really need….or even want.

 Rethink giving

We know that the holidays are all about giving – but giving doesn’t need to mean spending money.  Instead of running to the mall again, think of other ways you can give that will help improve your community, make the world a better place, and truly brighten someone’s holiday.

It’s the perfect time of year to volunteer at local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and charity organizations. This kind of giving doesn’t cost a dime, but can be a memorable and significant experience for all involved.

To find local volunteer opportunities, click here.

Post-Holiday Tips

Use those gift cards

Gift cards are a typical holiday gift, but many people forget they have them, and they go unused.

Put all of your gift cards in your wallet and spend them creatively.  Maybe you don’t care for coffee on the go, but you can buy a package of ground coffee beans at Starbucks and use it at home.  Use that iTunes gift card to rent a movie instead of taking the family out.  Whatever it might be, use these gift cards and appreciate them for what they are – money in your wallet.

Invest in next year’s regifting effort

In addition to gift cards, you’ll probably find yourself with a bunch of gifts you don’t really want.  Some of these can be saved and re-gifted next year or used as birthday gifts throughout the year – scented candles, bottles of wine, bath products, etc.  Even if you don’t actually want it, you can find someone else who does!