By Kurt Smith
Learn more about Kurt on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor
If you’re like many people, the holidays causemore financial stress than any other time of year. Figuring out how to affordgifts, décor and food for the big feast is oftenoverwhelming.
You might never be able to remove all of your holiday money worries, but you can alleviate some of them. Even though your shopping list might continue to grow while your wallet shrinks, you canenjoy this season without breaking the bank.
Here are five ways to survive holiday financial stress.
Set a budget
Reviewyour earnings and expenses, and then decide how much you’rewilling to spend onholiday gifts, food and other items. Consider makinga list and assigning each item a specific dollar amount. This will help you overcome the temptation to overspend.
» MORE: How to build a budget
Plan your shopping
Whether you’re headed to the grocery store or braving the crowds at the mall, knowwhat you intend to buy and who it’sfor. Sticking to your list will also help keep you from buying unnecessary items and prevent overspending. It’s easy to make impulse purchases with all the eye candy in stores this time of the year, but you won’t fall preyto these consumer tricks when you know what you need.
Don’t buy it if you can’t afford it
A 2016reportfrom investment management firm T. Rowe Price showed that 25% of parents have dipped into their emergency savings or 401(k) retirement plan or taken out a payday loan in order to cover holiday expenses. If you can’t afford to buy your children something on their wish lists without taking out a loan or borrowing from another account, the best option is to not buy it — it’s OK to say no. Your children will survive. Shortchanging your savings or going into debt is ultimately more detrimental to your family than skipping a few presents.
Get creative with gift giving
You can give thoughtful gifts while spending a fraction of the cost. If you’re crafty, handmade presents areextremely thoughtful. And if you’re lacking in artistic abilities, you can always give the gift of your time. Cooking someone a meal, giving new parents a night out while you babysit, or offering to clean someone’s house are gifts that recipients will love and will cost you nothing.
Remember what the season is all about
It’s easy to be swept up inthe consumerism of the season, but remember that it isn’t about money and materialism. Focusing on its religious purpose or enjoying time with your loved ones will keep you from stressing over less important things.
With a little planning and creativity, it’s possible to getthrough the holidays and avoiddebt or wiping out your savings account.And you’ll feel even less stress when you reach January in good financial shape.