By: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, email@example.com
Contact: Dr. Joyce Cavanagh, 979-845-3859 firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION — Financial pressure and time restrictions are often the top stressors during the holidays, but there are ways to reduce that stress, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“You can reduce your holiday stress by making a budget and adequately planning your holiday shopping and family time,” said Dr. Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension family economics specialist, College Station.
Cavanagh said one of the best ways to reduce holiday stress is to commit to making and sticking to a holiday spending plan.
“Most people think about planning for gift buying but forget about all of the other holiday-related spending such as entertainment, decorations, holiday meals, donations and travel,” she said. “All of these should be factored into your holiday spending plan to reduce your chances of being surprised and overspending.”
She said as a guideline some personal finance experts suggest limiting holiday spending to 1.5 percent of annual income.
“That’s $600 for someone with a $40,000 annual income.” Cavanagh said, “Setting that spending limit and using only cash can keep you from overspending. If you decide to use credit, don’t charge more than you can afford to pay off when you get the bill. And know what the interest rate is on your credit cards.”
She said to make a list of everyone to receive gifts and decide how much to spend on each person.
“Have gift ideas in mind before shopping so you aren’t making impulse purchases,” she said. “Keep track of what you spend and who you bought it for. It will help reduce your stress when you can look at your list and know exactly what you still have to buy. And knowing what gift wrapping and party supplies you already have on hand can keep you from buying more than you need.”
Preparing a list and shopping early allows for more time to watch for sales on specific items, she noted.
“If a gift is this year’s ‘must have’ item, shopping early means you may get it before they are sold out. Waiting until the last minute often means buying any gift rather than the right gift.”
Cavanagh said those with large extended families might consider giving a family gift instead of individual gifts.
“Or the extended family members could draw names so each person is giving one gift instead of many,” she said.
She also suggested “thinking outside the gift box” when giving.
“Some of the best gifts a person could receive aren’t things you can buy,” she said, “Give the gift of yourself – either as time or talent. Homemade gift certificates redeemable by the recipient can be valuable but inexpensive gifts.
“For example, teenagers can provide babysitting services. If you like to bake, providing a dozen homemade cookies every month or a birthday cake later in the year would be welcome gifts. If you knit or sew or are a woodworker, consider making gifts rather than buying them.”
She said if hosting a holiday meal, one way to lessen the expense and stress is by asking others for help.
“Plan your menu and ask your guests to bring specific items, or ask them to bring a side dish or dessert and let them choose their favorite dish.”
Cavanagh said it’s important to remember the best gift is the gift of time.
“Incorporate games or other family activities to make your holiday gatherings special,” she said “Gifts are soon forgotten, but memories last a lifetime.”