Depending upon your planning style, you reach this time of the year and you are ready. If you’re traveling to be with family and friends for the holidays, your arrangements are set; if you exchange gifts, they are purchased, or you at least have your list prepared, along with a budget; if you’re hosting, you’re starting to get your house in order and plan your menu.

Also depending upon your planning style, you reach this time of the year and haven’t done a darn thing.  

Of course there’s more ease navigating the holiday season with the former planning style than there is with the latter. But regardless of which one you fall into, this time of year can be stressful.

This time of year can put pressure on your finances, time and emotions –  unlike any other time of the year.

This time of year marks the 60-day countdown. Can you believe it?! The end of October and beginning of November is when the trifecta of rounding out the year, preparing for the holidays, and planning for the new year all converge. (Just writing 60-days made me go, “Wow!)

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38% of people said their stress level increases during the holidays. If you’re not intentional, this statistic can be you. If you’re not careful, you can fall into the trap where unexpressed and unmet expectations (your own, as well as those of others) can overshadow the fun and joy the togetherness of the season is intended to foster.

So, here are some things to think about and do if it feels like I’m knocking on your door, talking directly to you as we enter another holiday season! -:) (For some, it started today…if you celebrate, Happy Diwali!)

Money, money, money

How much can you spend this holiday season?

To get ready for the holidays financially, it is useful to first look at how much you spent last year on all things holiday related:

  • Travel  – Did you travel by plane, car, train; did you stay in a hotel or at an AirBnB; what did you spend on travel meals?
  • Entertainment – What did it cost for the holiday parties and gatherings you attended (large and small; work related and personal)? 
  • Gifts – How many gifts did you give; what was the average cost per gift?
  • Hosting – How much did you spend on groceries, decorations and other related hosting expenses (like cleaning and organizing, if you outsourced these activities)? 

By doing this look-back, you can then more objectively take the next step, which is to determine if this year you’re able to do the same, need to do less, or have the capacity to do more when it comes to the question: “How much can you spend this holiday season?

Financial stress often kicks in when you need to do less than before.

If the “less than” is due to economic realities, like a job loss, it’s easy to explain your limitations to family and friends about what you can and cannot do.

It becomes trickier if the need to do less is due to some other factor – like overwhelming debt, overspending during the year, insufficient earnings, or a lack of savings. This is when you may tend to be more self-conscious about your circumstances and less open to talking about the specifics.

If money is a source of holiday stress this year, taking a few minutes right now to think about your capacity and how you will manage your own expectations, as well as those of others, can go a long way toward you getting ahead of this stress.

Take all the time you need

Well…sort of. -:)

Because you likely have numerous decisions to make over the next 60 days.

So, this is when thinking of preparing for the holidays as if it is a time-bound project can be beneficial. (Remember our conversation about “finishing the year strong?”) This is also when reverse-engineering your punch list becomes your best friend. Consider:

  • What types of decisions do you need to make? 
  • What actions are associated with these decisions?
  • What’s the time-frame within which you need to take the first action, and then the next one, and on and on?

To better manage your time over the coming days and weeks, it helps to…

…remember that getting ready for the holiday season is a dance of re-shuffling priorities – even if only temporarily.

One of the best ways to navigate the short-term demands of the holiday season with as much ease as possible is to create a schedule and weekly to-do; track your activity and progress; track your expenses. And be sure to factor in your usual work, family and financial obligations to ensure you’re setting as realistic a schedule as possible!

Those darn emotions

Money and time are common stressors anytime of the year. They are even more so during the holidays. So it’s no surprise that this is also the time of year when all sorts of emotions begin to emerge.

You enter the holiday season with the weight of the year on your shoulders around how much (or little) you’ve accomplished, and how much you still need to do. In addition, you often end up having to manage the inner-talk around how your family and friends – who may not be privy to your day-to-day challenges and victories – perceive you and your circumstances.

To get ahead of these tricky emotions, there are a few things you can do: 

  • Figure out how financial and/or time stress will play out in your life this holiday season;
  • Figure out if you’ve adjusted your expectations to match your current capacity and current needs;
  • Figure out how to manage the expectations others have of you; 
  • Share what’s causing you stress with those around you!

The jingle says, “…the most wonderful time of the year…”

If you take note of what usually causes you stress (we all have different triggers) and get ahead of those things, this can be more than a lyric. It can actually be what you experience.

Especially if you also use the holiday season to have substantive conversations about money with your family and close friends. Suggestions on how to do that is what’s on deck for the next post. Stay tuned!

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