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How to Manage Your Finances Around the Holidays

The pressure to support the economy is an inevitable part of capitalism, but it also puts many people in tenuous financial circumstances. Spending money can get even more out of control during the holiday season, when stores advertise Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales earlier every year. How can you manage your finances and preserve your well-being during the holidays?

1. Set a Budget – and Stick to It

Before spending a dime on holiday purchases, take time to make a detailed list of all your expected expenses. Compare that to your monthly bills to determine how much you can afford to spend in total. As the season progresses, stay disciplined and do not deviate from this plan. It’s easy to get lured in by discounts and too-good-to-be-true pricing, but be realistic to avoid spending more than you can reasonably afford.

2. Make Handmade Gifts

If you have always been crafty, you can save money by putting homemade presents under the tree this year. Hand-making a personalized gift for a loved one demonstrates more forethought and care than going to a store and picking up the first thing you see on sale.

To manage your finances around the holidays, you could also create coupons for your gift recipients. For example, your friends with young children would probably love to get an afternoon of babysitting or help around the house. Or, you could offer to make a home-cooked meal for someone who isn’t handy in the kitchen.

3. Find Free Community Holiday Activities

Many cities go all-out in celebrating the holidays, with parades, tree-lighting ceremonies and other celebrations. These events are fun and usually low-cost or free. Compared to taking your whole family out to dinner or buying tickets to The Nutcracker, community activities can be equally fun and much less challenging for your budget.

4. Avoid Going Into Debt

The pressure to give memorable gifts and entertain friends and loved ones around the holidays influences many people to take out high-interest loans or get new credit cards. Unfortunately, going into debt because you can’t afford something can have financially devastating consequences. Remember, you don’t have to open new lines of credit to enjoy the holiday season. Your family and friends will understand if you tell them you are being sensible with your finances and trying not to overspend on lavish gifts.

5. Know the Warning Signs of a Shopping Addiction

Compulsive spending is a behavioral addiction that shares many characteristics with substance use disorders. For example, many people shop to alleviate mental health symptoms or fill a perceived lack in their lives. Shopping addicts also exhibit characteristics such as experiencing excitement before a purchase and a sense of relief afterward. 

Much like the increased tolerance associated with substance abuse, as a buying compulsion increases in severity, you may find yourself needing to spend more often or in higher amounts to achieve the same effects on your mood. While you might not experience any physical withdrawal symptoms when trying to spend less, you could feel emotionally unsatisfied or sense that a fulfilling part of your life is lacking. 

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