While Christmas can be a joyful time spent with family and loved ones, for a lot of us, it can be stressful financially. There can also be emotional stress, with pressure to meet the social expectations of the season. It’s okay to feel like this, and you are not alone. PayPal’s 2023 Holiday Survey reveals 20% of Australians are worried about their financial situation going into the holiday season and 44% of shoppers are increasingly concerned by how much Christmas costs.
This year, we invite you to take a step back and be kind to yourself. What does that mean? Our partners at the Financial Wellbeing Collective (FWC) have put together five tips on how to celebrate the festive season on your own terms.
1. Set your Christmas budget early.
Creating an early and detailed Christmas budget can help remove unnecessary money-related stress. Consider making a list of who you’ll be buying for and setting spending limits. Amidst the chaos of last-minute Christmas shopping and impulsive purchases, it’s easy to spend beyond what you planned.
“Before pulling out your credit cards, think back to how you felt post-festive season last year. How long did it take to repay the debt? How much further did it set you back? Did you start the new year filled with regrets and worries about your finances?” asks Dee O’Callaghan, FWC financial coaching services coach.
Experiencing a well-organised Christmas that’s within your budget allows you to enjoy the festive season without the concerns of post-holiday debt.
2. Indulge in some self-care.
If your festive calendar is full of activities and events, intentionally set time aside for yourself to do things that you enjoy and that are just for you. Recharge that social battery. Maybe allow for some quiet time on your own, go for a hike, head to the beach, or take part in outdoor classes. If snuggling on the couch with your family and watching a movie is your idea of self-care, then book in some time to do just that. Determine what feels like self-care to you and put it in your calendar to follow through.
3. Manage expectations – and embrace the power to say no.
There’s an increase in expectations during the holiday season. Expectations to attend parties or events, host a Christmas feast, find the perfect gift or perfect outfit.
"Communicate your plans openly – if you need to decline an invitation, do so early without guilt. Give yourself permission to be less than perfect. Remember, the holidays are just like any other day – they come and go. You don’t need to add additional stress on yourself to meet standards that don’t work for you”, suggests Dee.
4. Have an honest conversation with yourself.
Dee hears from a lot of people who feel pressure to spend in order to keep up appearances and status with family and friends. Do you feel an expectation to buy more gifts than you’re comfortable with, or to spend more on those gifts than you can really afford?
"Remember you are in control of your finances, behaviours, thoughts, and actions. You get to decide what you want and can afford to spend. Try to be honest with yourself, set strong boundaries if needed and normalise discussions about cost and affordability,” Dee O’Callaghan.
You can set boundaries to limit financial stress and avoid a January debt hangover.
5. Reevaluate and reflect.
This is a perfect time to reevaluate your ways of doing things over Christmas. It’s not a necessity to stick to traditions or the usual way of celebrating just because that's what you've always done, especially if it’s going to put you under financial pressure.
“Take a preventative view and lead new ways of doing things. Recreate traditions with a budget-conscious twist or create new traditions. Pick and mix celebrations that align with your current life situation and your true happiness.”
For example, if gift-giving is part of the celebration for you, it’s perfectly okay to set a budget beforehand, make a rule of only gifting to children, or regift that new candle you received on your birthday that you know you’ll never use.
It’s also important to take time to reflect on how things went. Ask yourself, what positive learnings can you carry into 2024 to make upcoming events joyful and financially successful?
Sit back and relax.
Make this the year you actually sit back and relax over Christmas. By choosing how you spend both your time and money over the festive season, you can set yourself up for success in the new year. Enjoy!
Interested in getting some help setting up your Christmas goals or your plan for 2024? Dee and the FWC team of independent, qualified coaches can help you get on track with our free financial coaching service. This could be the ultimate Christmas gift you’ve been waiting for.