How to Avoid Falling Into the Trap of Holiday-Season Financial Stress

When you're juggling holiday shopping, cookie baking, and covering your entire apartment in string lights on top of your regular day-to-day routine, the most wonderful time of the year can quickly become the most stressful—especially when you factor in the added strain on your budget.

But before you swear off everything merry and bright, listen to this advice from Daily Harvest founder and CEO Rachel Drori—who as the entrepreneurial founder of a booming startup has learned a thing or two about juggling financial responsibilities.

"As an entrepreneur, I have always been very strategic and thoughtful with how I approach money management," Drori says. "It’s important to have your finances in order around the holidays to not add to this already hyper-stressful time of year."

But why all the added angst? Drori thinks it's because of people's desire to spread extra love during this time of year—and often extra love equates to extra expenses.

"In today’s society, thoughtful gifting is a way of showing the people we love how much we understand and value them," she says. "There is a lot of pressure put on this act during the holidays and we end up laying out a lot of money in a concentrated period of time because it is a societal expectation."

To help you manage your outflow of cash (without making bah humbug your seasonal mantra), we asked Drori to share her tips for avoiding the holiday-season financial stress trap.

Scroll down for 3 tips on avoiding holiday-season financial stress.

holiday-season financial stress
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1. Resist the temptation to give beyond your means

A foolproof formula for feeling anxious is spending more money than you actually have (or at least enough to make you wonder whether your bank balance is going to dip below your comfort zone).

Drori's remedy for breaking the cycle is two-fold. First, identify why you feel pressured to give big. "We are busier than ever, which only adds to stress and may result in us spending extra money to make up for shortcomings in our relationships the rest of the year."

Second, have an honest conversation with your usual gift recipients about your ability to give this year—especially if you feel like you're compensating for instability in the relationship—so they know your scaled-back presents don't mean you love them any less. Who knows? Taking the time to have that conversation might be just the quality time your relationship needs.

holiday-season financial stress
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2. Make a plan

To make sure you're not spending outside of your means, you'll need to tap into your inner strategist. "The best way to prepare [for holiday shopping] is to make a plan," Drori says. "Even a simple brainstorming session can help you set some guardrails on how much you will spend, and writing those limits down in advance is a good way to hold yourself accountable."

Here's how Drori does it: Before she sets foot in a store, she writes down a list of who she's shopping for and ideas for gifts that will show she "gets them" (more on that below). Then, she comes up with a rough estimate for how much she'll spend on each person, and adds up the total to see how she—and her bank account—feel about the sum.

If it's too high, she can go back and adjust accordingly. If it's lower than she anticipated, she can add on to her planned gifts without feeling guilty about over-spending. "I also always leave a little buffer for those 'can’t resist' items," she says. Noted.

holiday-season financial stress
Photo: Stocksy/Pixel Stories

3. Think thoughtful

During her brainstorm session, Drori's number-one priority is finding gifts that show she put thought into finding something they'd really love. Even better if it's something that will improve their everyday lives, rather than just offering a fleeting moment of celebration (because who doesn't love a good life hack?).

"It’s the thought that counts," she emphasizes. "Instead of choosing something very expensive or outrageous, gift something that will make people smile and shows that you understand them."

Writing sweet cards, baking a DIY treat, or framing a photo of your happiest memory together are all thoughtful ways to participate in the gift-giving tradition—without breaking the bank.

Sponsored by Citi

Top photo: Getty Images/Manonallard

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