holiday spending
You’d be surprised how often personal finances come up in therapy. 

We think of money as a practical matter, but it is deeply emotional with complex psychology driving our financial decisions. 

The end-of-year holidays are especially fraught. Did you know Americans add $1,300 on average to their debt during the holidays? And, that debt doesn’t get paid off until the next holiday season, when we create it again! 

How we take care of our financial health is deeply connected to how we take care of and value ourselves. 

As we head into November, it may feel too late to save up for this year’s holidays, but we can still practice financial wellness starting right where we are. 

  1. Muster the courage to find out what your financial picture looks like. Making decisions from a place of full truth and knowledge of our situation is important. While it might feel scary to tally up all debts and obligations compared to your income, it is an critical first step in financial self-care.
  2. Breathe. Take the time to write down your feelings about what you’ve found. Remember: this is not the whole story! This is the beginning of your journey to financial wellness.
  3. Identify what you have to work with for holiday spending this year. Write that number at the top of a sheet of paper.
  4. List anticipated holiday expenses. People, travel, food, etc.
  5. List January expenses, such as self-employment taxes for those self-employed folks! 

Now, if you’ve gotten this far, give yourself a round of applause because this takes a lot of courage, especially when we’ve been sticking our heads in the sand about our finances. And, we’re not there yet. 

Holidays come with a TON of expectations. We may want to enjoy generous gift giving. We may feel that others expect generous gifts from us. Family may expect us to travel without concern for the financial impact it may have. We may have children for whom we want to create magic and memories.

Here are some ways to have financial boundaries that honor the holiday while also honoring your financial well-being. 
  1. Unfortunately, that [_______________] is not going to work for me/my family this year.
  2. We are not going to be able to travel, but we’d love to set up a video chat while you are celebrating.
  3. We are only able to provide gifts for children this year, but not adults. We don’t expect gifts for ourselves, either.
  4. I really want to attend, but I’m not sure if gifts are expected. That is not something I will be able to do this year. Should I still plan on attending or plan to come next year?
  5. We will be giving handmade gifts this year.
  6. Talk to children about gifts vs experiences and create opportunities for them to decide what they value and really want. 
Remember, financial wellness isn’t about doing it perfectly.

It’s about what you can do today to be on the path toward financial health tomorrow.

If you can avoid adding debt this holiday season, great! If not, see if you can minimize the amount of debt you create and make a plan for a debt-free holiday next year!