The holiday's are loads of fun but they also come with loads of hidden financial stressors! Today, we are going to talk about where financial stress hides during the holidays, tips for navigating all the financial minefields, and managing your money. Say so long to overspending this holiday season and “YES!” to finally sticking to your holiday budget! I also want to thank my friends at Lexington Law Firm for sponsoring this post (which contains affiliate links).
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13 Hidden Financial Stressors During The Holidays
[+ How To Navigate Them]
Hidden Financial Stressor: Identity Theft
Let's start with the big one we all want to pretend doesn't exist: Identity theft. Did you know that it's easier than ever to fall victim to identity theft? And the holidays are prime time for identity thieves! Seriously, today people can swipe your identity by just sitting in the mall with a scanning device and all you have to do is walk by in close enough range and BAM, identity stolen!
Solution: Monitor your credit score
My friends at Lexington Law created the Lex OnTrack Identity Theft Protection tool to help you monitor and protect your identity from theft with $1 million in identity theft insurance. The Lex OnTrack tool can help you catch fraud on your accounts and will work with you to quickly rectify the situation. Identity theft is something you really want to stay on top of. Yes, insurance covering financial losses is helpful, but identity theft can leave a nasty mark on your credit report.
That's where Lex OnTrack comes in. It doesn't just help to protect your identity, but if you do fall victim to identity theft, it's backed by the professionals at Lexington Law who specialize in helping clients restore their credit by repairing inaccurate or unsubstantiated negative items. If you've already been a victim to identity theft, give Lexington Law a call today to receive your free credit repair consultation.
Hidden Financial Stressor: All of the holiday parties
A couple of years ago I read through some survey findings on millennials during the holiday time, and they found that on average, millennials spend over $800 and attend 24 events during the holiday season! Initially hearing that, it sounded like I had no social life by comparison. But then they broke it down: 6 meals with relatives, 4 work related events, 4 dinner parties, 4 nights out with friends, 4 house parties, and 2 tacky sweater parties and I quickly realized, that while I may not go to 24 events… there certainly are WAY more holiday parties than I initially realized! Even Lexington Law firm agrees, parties are just one of the sneaky holiday costs we face.
Solution: Tune into your gut
Before RSVP'ing yes to every invite that comes your way, do a gut check. If you aren't super excited about it, then it's going to be a “no.” Cutting back on all of the holiday events will not only save you financial stress during the holidays, but it can also save you emotional and energetic stress by allocating your times towards things that really light you up.
Hidden Financial Stressor: Who to get gifts for?
Gift giving… it's such an emotionally charged activity. Everyone has their own unspoken rules and expectations around it. Often times, it can be a minefield and a money pit to navigate. Should you get a gift for every person in the family? What about the office? The mail person?! Before you know it, you've gotten gifts for every person you've ever met, and their first cousin.
Solution: Ask questions, set expectations, limits, and boundaries
Write a list of who is a top priority for gifts in your life. Then have a conversation with them. Ask if they even want to do gifts, if so, is there anything specific they want? For people you are on the fence about, feel free to get ahead of it and ask if they want to skip gifts this year, or instead of gifts, plan a day together.
Remember, gift giving isn't everyone's love language, and just because it's yours doesn't mean it's theirs (or vice versa!). Try to meet people where they are at with their actual wants/needs while still prioritizing your own holiday spending and financial wellbeing.
Hidden Financial Stressor: Buying gifts in general
Gift giving can be even more stressful than figuring out who to get the gifts for in my opinion! How much should you spend? Will it seem too impersonal? Cheap? Is it inline with their values?! I am starting to feel a panic attack coming on just thinking about it!!!
So that brings me to something that may seem a bit controversial and this is truly my opinion. But going back to my last point, you have your list of people to get gifts for, great! But here's the thing: a survey last year found that 58 percent of people wanted to receive money. Personally, I'm one of those people. I hate when people get me a gift that I don't like or want. I know that may sound ungrateful, but hear me out.
I'd much rather someone take a picture and say, “thinking of you!” than spend their hard earned money on something that I either won't use, or shows they don't totally understand me. At that point, the thought really is all I care about and a picture will do just that. You see, we have a major environmental crisis on our hands, and I don't want to be a part of the problem by accepting unnecessary stuff in my life.
I know some people are thinking, “you could donate it!” but the truth is donation centers can sometimes even struggle to keep up with the amount of excess stuff today. One store saw a 367 percent increase in donations in one week this year, compared to the exact same week last year! So yes, I do donate when I can, but I also believe in simply letting our dollars speak and not adding to the unnecessary circulation of stuff.
Solution: Give cash with a note
Figure out a budget and then give cash accordingly. This allows you to stick to said budget while avoiding temptation of in-store impulse purchases. Plus you can STILL personalize cash!! Simply add a note in the memo line or card that says, “for the coffee I know you love so much!” or something like that.
This is a talk I've had extensively with older generations who aren't comfortable with giving me cash. Personally, I try to take a picture or let them know when I've spent their “gift” and try to use it on a shared interest. For instance, one year my father in law gifted me money for my birthday. This was big for him; it's not what he and his wife ever did. So I took the money and put it towards buying a new camera lense and shared the news with him (he's a photography enthusiast and has one some competitions).
Cash can be an excellent gift that's personal, environmentally conscious, and cuts financial stress during the holidays!
Hidden Financial Stressor: Instagram Effect
Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably seen the slew of perfectly decorated Christmas trees already popping up on Instagram! Seriously, November 1st hit and BAM my feed was twinkle lights and evergreens! Here's the thing: the Instagram effect is real and puts an unnecessary amount of financial stress on us. Don't get caught up on having the most Instagrammable decorations, or matching family pajamas, or perfectly decorated tablescape with all of the Pinterest worthy foods and drinks “casually” displayed for a gorgeous flat lay.
Solution: Remember what the season is all about
Instead of getting caught up in the hype, remember what this season is actually about. I like to focus on a few values that I bring into focus this season. Generosity, gratitude, respect, joy and honesty are typically at the top of my list. By shifting focus to my values and what the season is really about, I can put my energy there instead of keeping up with everyone on Instagram.
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Hidden Financial Stressor: Destroying your credit score
Repeat after me: The holidays are NOT a reason to go into debt! Seriously, it takes time to build up an excellent credit score, but you can destroy that in one afternoon! I classify this as a hidden financial stressor during the holidays, because I don't think anyone sets out to destroy their credit! For many, it's a bad sequence of events: holiday shopping, then your identity is stolen, and then your house needs unexpected repair, and all of the sudden you are falling down a very icy financial slope.
Solution: Have a good financial plan in place and support
If you haven't already, make sure you create a holiday budget you. Since we are talking budgets, I also want to remind you now is the time for an emergency fund if you don't already have one! Seriously, it needs to be an even higher priority than your holiday shopping when creating your budget. Once you have your emergency fund where you want it, a holiday budget in place, you'll want to make sure that you're protecting your identity using the Lex OnTrack Identity Theft Protection tool.
Also, now is a good time to pull your credit reports to ensure everything is accurate. This way if there are any problems, you can get ahead of it before your holiday spending and festivities kick off! While your identity may not have been stolen, there are loads of breaches and other reasons negative items can appear on your credit report. If you've experienced a divorce, medical or student debt, identity theft, or military leave you're even more susceptible. If that sounds like you and your credit isn’t where you want it to be, click here for your free credit repair consultation with Lexington Law Firm.
Hidden Financial Stressor: Burnt food
The struggle is real my friends! It's no secret groceries can get expensive (read my tips for saving money on groceries here!). To add stress on top of cooking, 1 in 3 millennials attempt a food or drink recipe they saw on Pinterest! OOF! Burning your holiday meal is not only the opposite of fun, but it's also expensive. Seriously, you lose out on leftovers and have to order in replacement food.
Solution: Stick to tried and true staples
Let's be honest, while a fun twist on some food or drinks during the holidays can be nice, we all really want the classics. Keep it simple and stick with easy to make and delicious foods you're far less likely to mess up. Your tummy, guests, and bank account will thank you!
Hidden Financial Stressor: Falling for gimmicks and scams
Things can get a little naughty during the holiday season with scams and gimmicks. In fact, many stores have been known to increase product prices, only to put them on “sale” – which simply discounts the product back to the standard rate of the item if you were to come in any other time of the year. Even worse, scammers are out! Lexington Law shared the top 3 holiday scams to avoid here.
Solution: Research and ask questions.
Write out a list of gifts your plan to get first. Then see which stores carry the items and at what price point. You can use some Google Chrome extensions like Honey to look at the price history of some items too. By doing a quick price history search and comparison check you can ensure you don't fall for store gimmicks during the holidays!
Also, always ask questions too. Is this coming from a trusted email? Can you look up the charity? Do you clearly understand terms you are agreeing too. For instance, if you take this upgraded tablet, does it have any hidden fees after a certain amount of time?
Hidden Financial Stressor: Opening a store credit card
When you're holiday shopping, things can get expensive quickly. When you see your total is more than you anticipated, it can be easy to blindly say “yes” when the store clerk asks if you want to save 10% on your purchase by opening a store credit card.
Solution: Skip the store credit card
This is one of the five tips Lexington Law shared to ensure your credit doesn't drop this holiday season (read all the tips here!).
Often times store credit cards have really high interest rates. Now that may not impact you if you are paying it off in full right away… but they also tend to become an afterthought. Meaning you open it and forget about it. Then that bill ends up in collections and destroying your credit score. The other thing that happens a lot, is you just keep saying yes to the new credit card at all of the stores, and before you know it, you've driven your credit score down from all of the hard inquiries. Here's What You Need To Know Before Applying For A New Credit Card.
Hidden Financial Stressor: Traveling during the holidays
Traveling any time of the year comes with it's own stresses. I mean there are tons of hidden fees, and then the concerns of lost baggage or flight cancellations, and sooo much more! Add the holidays into the mix and stress levels can be taken to new heights. On top of that, it can be challenging to figure out where to spend the holidays too.
Solution: Get honest & prioritize
Sometimes, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we realize we don't actually want to travel during the holidays to spend it in situations that stress us out. Get honest about how you want to feel during your holidays and skip the travel if you think it'll deter you from your vision.
Now if you definitely do want to travel during the holidays, make sure to read this post on 41 Brilliant [+ Easy] Ways To Save Money On Travel. Definitely include a bit of a cushion in your travel budget too, since things can often take some unexpected twists and turns during this time of year!
Hidden Financial Stressor: Feeling broke, then doing the last minute holiday scramble
For our generation, it's no secret that while we are technically earning more than previous generations, our purchasing power hasn't gone up. Meaning our salaries aren't going nearly as far as salaries used to in covering necessities thanks to the soaring costs of college, housing, and health care. It's no wonder so many millennials feel broke! I personally have struggled with whether or not to do holiday gifts, decided not to in order to give my budget some more breathing room, only to end up doing the last minute holiday gift scramble when someone unexpectedly hands me a gift.
Solution: Shift your mindset & shop early
This took some self awareness on my end. I realized that in years past I felt broke and would think I'd skip gift giving. Only once I realized the lies I told myself keeping me poor, I was able to shift my mindset. With that new mindset I was able to bring more awareness to my holiday pattern of springing for last minute holiday gifts (often more expensive), and started shopping earlier.
[RELATED] 8 Ways To Stop Feeling Broke
Hidden Financial Stressor: Trying to please everyone
You will never please everyone! Especially during the holidays! People are walking around with so many of their own expectations and visions for the season and it's not your job to bring them to life. Especially at the expense of your own financial well being!
Solution: Please yourself
A few years ago, I decided I had spent one too many holidays crying and I was done. Instead of continually putting myself in situations (both financially and emotionally) to please others, I decided to reinvent the holidays for my inner child. From that day forward, I only put my money and time into things that would make my inner child happy. That meant far less time shopping, and far more time baking and crafting. That meant way less events (which add up), gifts for people I don't actually want to give gifts too, and so much more. Which left more room for charity and my self care.A few years ago, I decided I spent one too many holidays crying & I was done. I decided to reinvent the holidays for my inner child. From that day forward, I only put my money and time into things that would make my inner child happy. Click To Tweet
Hidden Financial Stressor: Going overboard on holiday decor
Again, the Instagram effect is real friends. But even before Instagram, the neighborhood I grew up in went all out for the holidays. Each house try to outdo the next one. I'm talking homes covered from roof to grass (I live in Florida, so yes, grass, not snow). Homes with fake snow blowers, bubble machines, projectors playing Frosty The Snowman and sooo much more! Yes, this was absolutely magical to look at as a kid, but holiday decor is no reason to go into debt or add undo financial stress.
Solution: Pick a simple theme or scheme and stick to it.
Even if your plans aren't to go all out like I previously mentioned with holiday decor, I feel like those homes are a gateway towards impulse purchases in the holiday decor realm. They get the festive juices flowing and you just need a little hit of your own. My tip: choose a color palette or theme for your holiday decor.
This way if items don't fit into your scheme, they are an automatic no (meaning it limits your pool of temptation). Secondly, it brings any impulse purchases together under a shared umbrella so things don't look like a total hodge podge hot mess. This way you won't keep convincing yourself you need to buy one more thing to match that other one random thing, and so goes the vicious cycle. Also, stay tuned because next week, I'm sharing even more money saving tips that are Christmas specific so I'll have even more for holiday decor there!
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List of 13 Hidden Financial Stressors During The Holidays [+ How To Navigate Them]
All of the holiday parties.
Who to get gifts for?
Buying gifts in general
Destroying your credit score
Falling for gimmicks and scams
Opening a store credit card
Traveling during the holidays
Feeling broke, then doing the last minute holiday scramble
Trying to please everyone
Going overboard on holiday decor