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5 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, we can expect life to get a lot busier. Between the shopping, parties, traveling, decorating and cooking, it's all too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and spend more than we originally intended.

Thankfully, the most wonderful time of year doesn't have to be the most expensive! With a little planning, you can enjoy a fun-filled holiday season without worrying about money.

Here are five ways to keep holiday financial worries to a minimum:

#1: Make a plan

A stress-free holiday season starts with a great plan. Begin by listing out all your expected holiday expenses on paper, in a spreadsheet or by using budgeting app. Keep in mind that holiday spending involves more than just gifts; you'll also need to budget for things like cards, wrapping paper, travel, parties, food and charitable donations. Decide on a spending limit and assign a dollar amount to each spending category. Knowing what you need to pay for in addition to gifts will help you create a more accurate holiday budget and avoid overspending.

#2: Steer clear of impulse buys

Sticking to your holiday budget can be tricky, especially with retailers offering one-click ordering, online flash deals, buy-one-get-one sales and enticing goods strategically placed near the check-out lanes. Do your best to follow your list and resist the temptation of buying extra items for yourself or others. If you do succumb to an impulse buy, save your receipt and leave the tags on for at least a few days. This way, if you experience buyer's remorse, you can get your money back.

#3: Track your spending

One of the easiest ways to stay on target with your holiday budget is by tracking every purchase. If you use a written budget, save your receipts and record the purchases you make in each category. Or, link your financial accounts to an online budgeting system that tracks your purchases automatically. We recommend using Money Management, available through Wright-Patt Credit Union's Mobile and Online Banking. This free service lets you see all of your financial accounts, including those with other institutions, all in one place. Money Management also auto-categorizes your transactions, so you will do less work managing and tracking your expenses throughout the holidays.

#4: Think outside the (gift) box

If the idea of purchasing gifts for every friend and family member has you feeling stressed, consider alternative gifting ideas. For example, organize a gift exchange where everyone draws a name and buys a gift for just one person. This way, you can splurge a little more on a single gift while trimming your overall holiday spending.

Another way to save money on gifts is to skip the stores and give something handmade instead. For example, you could knit a scarf, write a heartfelt card or bake holiday treats from scratch. No matter what you make, a “do-it-yourself" gift is an inexpensive yet meaningful way to show your appreciation to family and friends this season.

#5: Enjoy free holiday fun

It's not only gift-giving that impacts your holiday budget. Fancy dinners, holiday attractions and parties can all add up. Don't forget about the special occasion clothes you'll need to wear to all these functions!

​Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get into the holiday spirit without spending much money at all. Here are some ideas:​

  • Take a drive with your family to look at holiday lights.
  • Bake homemade treats and give them to neighbors and friends.
  • Visit a nearby history or art museum. Many local museums are either free or offer discounts for children and seniors.
  • See a matinee instead of an evening show or movie. Or, watch favorite holiday TV specials or movies at home.
  • If it snows, go sledding or build a snowman. Warm up with some homemade hot chocolate!
  • Volunteer your time to a good cause. Food banks, animal shelters and senior living communities are all wonderful places to spread holiday cheer.

The holiday season doesn't have to be a season of stress. By planning ahead, you can stay on budget and stress less without skipping treasured holiday traditions.

At Wright-Patt Credit Union, we want to help our members get ahead—and stay ahead —of holiday-related debt so they can live the lives they want to live. Be sure to visit our online Education Center for helpful budgeting tools and resources to use when preparing for the holiday season.

We are also pleased to offer members free budgeting and debt counseling through our partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness. Click here to learn more and schedule an appointment with a certified financial counselor. ​