Tips for the Holidays

DON’T LET THE HOLIDAYS STRESS YOU OUT

Do you need some tips to help your holiday stress?  The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But with some practical tips here from the Mayo Clinic, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives:
    • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
    • Give homemade gifts.
    • Start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.  Try these suggestions:
    • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.  Some options may include:
    • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
    • Listening to soothing music.
    • Getting a massage.
    • Reading a book.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

How to keep your holiday spending on budget

10 holiday shopping tips for finding the perfect gift at the right price

There is such a thing as being too generous, especially during the holidays. In 2015, Americans budgeted, on average, $830 for presents. That can be a tough bill to face in the new year. Here are some holiday spending tips to help get you through the season with your wallet in tact.

Value your relationships – Write down everyone you plan to give gifts to—from your nearest and dearest to your in-laws and the mail carrier. Then put a dollar figure next to each name. Setting price limits helps you keep your holiday budget on track.

Price check with your phone – Despite your best intentions, perfect gifts have a way of blowing your holiday budget. If you find a gift that’s over your budget, use your phone to see if you can find a better price elsewhere. Many stores have price-match policies if you find a better deal.

Don’t procrastinate – One of the surest ways to overspend is to wait until the last minute and buy all your gifts in a rush. Not only are you more likely to overspend, but it also makes an already stressful time of the year even more so.

Buy last year’s electronics – For many people, the latest and greatest features aren’t important. You’re likely to save big by gifting an older version of a device that was the latest and greatest just a few months ago.

Know the truth about Black Friday and Cyber Monday – Chances are, you started hearing about “doorbuster” deals back in October. But studies have shown there isn’t a huge difference in markdowns between one-day promotions, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and regular holiday sales.Footnote2 Instead of focusing on event-style sales, look for deals every day.

 Stay on top of your spending – Spend wisely by reviewing your account statements, paying your bills regularly and using online banking to easily monitor your accounts. If you purchase using a credit card, using a card that offers cash back or other rewards is another smart holiday budgeting tip. Since you’re going to spend the money anyway, you might as well get something—whether it’s retail discounts or travel deals—in return. We put together some tips on choosing a rewards credit card.

Consider making gifts – Homemade presents are great ways to save money while creating something memorable. These gifts might not work for everyone on your list, but they’re good options for some. Consider photos for grandparents or cookies for your kids’ teachers.

Save up for expensive gifts – Putting money aside for big-ticket items can prevent you from depleting your accounts or going into debt during the holidays. We’ve put together some tips on saving for a large purchase, but one of the best savings tools to use is automatic transfers, which nearly all banks offer. This can help you save without thinking about it. If you’re a Bank of America customer, you can sign up for automatic transfers and decide how much money to move from your checking account to your savings account and how often.

Try to avoid shopping stress – Retailers are really good at enticing people to buy. Everything from display placement to lighting and music is designed to trigger impulse purchases. Researchers have dubbed this the “shopping momentum effect,” noting we’re more likely to keep spending once we’ve gotten started. You can counteract the phenomenon by sticking to your shopping list and leaving the store for a few minutes when you’re tempted to make off-list purchases.

Factor in shipping – It’s not unusual for an online item to appear cheaper than its in-store counterpart—until you add in shipping costs. Take note of any delivery or service fees, as well. Keep in mind, many retailers offer shipping coupons or free shipping days to attract customers, so do some research before you click “buy.”

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