This year’s holiday season arrives after a year filled with transitions and challenges. The stresses of the holidays may be greater this year, given the pandemic and economic uncertainties.
Whether you’re stressed from having overspent or not being able to partake in your gift-giving traditions, here are ways you can recover and decompress from the holidays.
1. Assess your holiday spending
Perhaps you’ve gone over your budget or didn’t set a budget for your holiday spending. It’s okay, don’t beat yourself up or feel too guilty. It happens.
The best thing you can do is check your online statements, assess your spending, and add up the total amount. This is the time to think about why you may tend to overspend or have trouble sticking to a budget.
Make it a goal to put your finances in a better place in the new year. If you have debt to pay down for example, start with that.
2. Set a financial plan
Come up with a plan to get out of debt, especially if you’ve used your credit cards. Set a timeline for how you want to pay it off and note the interest rate for each credit card.
Whether you want to tackle the snowball method of paying lower balances first or the avalanche method of tackling your highest, having a plan makes it easier and real.
If your credit is in good shape and you’re ready to pay down your debt, you may consider a personal loan to knock out your credit card debt and lower your interest.
Budget tip: Create three-month budget goals
Now is as good a time as any to think about how you want to take control of your finances for 2021. Rather than setting a goal for the whole year, break it up into smaller chunks. That way, it may feel less overwhelming and more attainable.
An example of setting a timeline for financial goals in 2021 could be:
- March: Pay off credit card bills
- June: Save $3,000 for an emergency fund
- September: Pay off 10 percent more each month for student loan debt
- December: Assess how you did during the year
3. Create routines and habits that set you up for success
Make it a point to learn from this year and previous years and how you’ve handled your finances. If you tend to overspend, how can you reign it back so you stay out of debt and save more?
Make tangible moves to put yourself in a position where you can get into successful habits and routines. These are a few ways to do that:
- Set up an online savings account to set aside extra money each month. Automate it from your checking to savings and aim to increase your contributions by 10 percent every few months if you can.
- Then create a holiday savings fund and start saving at the beginning of the year so you can have that money waiting for you, come November.
- Set a budget for how much you want to spend and stick to it.
- Start a money journal. Write down your goals and how you can improve them. This can be a way to help get you in the mindset and build awareness of your spending and saving habits.
4. Focus on self-care
When we’re stressed, our brains often think and rethink the same problem. We forget to go outside and see the sun. We forget to take small breaks, even if it’s just 10 minutes away from your computer to breathe and relax.
Self-care includes aerobic exercise, which has been shown to have mental benefits and be good for your brain. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins, which are brain chemicals that function as your body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.
Go for a walk, ride your bike, and remember to get moving. The Department of Health recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, so go for a walk, ride your bike, and work it into your daily schedule.
5. Incorporate one thing you love to do each week into your routine
Humans are creatures of habit. Whether they are good habits or bad, we tend to fall into what’s comfortable for us. If you’ve strayed from being creative, reading a good book, cooking a delicious meal, or doing yoga, make it a point to work it into your schedule, even if you only have time once a week.
Gravitate towards things that bring you joy. Here are examples:
- Attend a free online virtual yoga class—there are plenty on YouTube
- Take a hot bath
- Go on a long walk in nature
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables each day
- Call or Zoom with friends and family, rather than texting
- Download a meditation app and start meditating for five minutes a day
Get back to what makes you creative or puts a smile on your face, outside of the daily grind.
How will you decompress?
No matter what your situation, financial stress may arise more often than you’d like. It’s how you manage that stress and what you’re proactively doing to foster positive money habits, especially after such a challenging year.
Make a plan to put yourself in a better situation for the future and remember to take care of yourself this holiday season, both physically and mentally.