By Harriet Lowbridge | Head of Advice
The festive period is nearly upon us! It is time to once again celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, amongst many other December celebrations. This is a time of family, joy, fun, rest, and goodwill towards others. Unfortunately, it has also become equated with stress, overspending, over indulgence and drama. With a little advanced planning in advance, however, we can avoid a large portion of all this unnecessary stress.
Getting your finances in order
Budget at the start of the month. Make sure that you have all of your outgoings calculated so that you know what money you will have left over to enjoy. Do not forget to factor in food, decorations, gift wrapping expenses, travel costs. It is often the little things that add up and catch us off guard when it comes to our budgets.
Pay your bills. Ensure that all of your regular expenses are paid or put money aside for them before you start your festive spending spree. You want to ensure that you have working electricity and heating before you invite all of your friends and family over to eat a big feast together.
Do not be afraid to keep things simple. Our festive holidays are not about who can spend the most money on one and other. We can simplify things and appreciate what we have already. Communicate with the people in your life and if a large spending spree is out of your budget this year, then maybe it is for your friends and family too. Token gifts that have meaning to them can be worth just as much, if not more than large collections of presents.
Be careful relying on credit cards and overdrafts. Your loved ones would not want you to go into debt over a seasonal holiday. No matter how important the event might be to them. Try to keep to your budget where possible and do not be afraid to return some items if you have over spent. If you do need to rely on an overdraft, discuss one with your bank first. Most banks will have a pre-approved amount that you can apply for, up to £250, to help you cover your costs. Unarranged overdrafts, however, can be far more costly or even affect your credit score. Discuss what options are available to you that will not drag you into debt.
Pay off your debts early. If you have ventured into credit cards and overdrafts, or even personal loans from friends and family, ensure you pay them back promptly. No one wants debts hanging over them in the new year. The sooner you get your debts paid back, the easier your life will be.
Shop around for presents. Holiday presents tend to get cheaper the further into December we get. Though most places will still try to maximise their profits from you. You can always take a second to check online if you see something in a shop that you like. Often stores will have exclusive online deals. You might also find other retailers that offer the same product but cheaper.
Focusing on your mental health
Manage your expectations. No festive season is going to be perfect. Life always finds ways to throw a bump in the road. Whether that is a burnt dinner, an unexpected illness, or family drama. Mentally preparing yourself for some of these eventualities will have a big impact on your mental health. Then if everything does proceed smoothly and as planned, then you have even more to enjoy at the time.
Do not feel obligated to provide for toxic people in your life. Not everyone has a perfect family. Do not allow people to pressure you into using your time on the people in your life that have hurt you. Taking the holiday season for yourself is not a crime. This is a season for joy and peace. If that means spending it with the one or two people that matter to you most, then you enjoy that time. You deserve your own happiness too.
Delegate. Many people feel pressured to provide a perfect holiday for everyone they know. If you have friends and family over you could get them to help out. Spend some time together in the kitchen if you have a meal to prepare. Go gift shopping with others when you can. Let others help you decorate and clean your home. A lot of people will be willing and happy to help you out. Plus, this allows you to spend extra time with the loved ones in your life. You will overwhelm yourself if you try to provide everything for everyone.
Avoid being alone. Where possible try to spend your time with people. Spending the festive season alone can get very depressing, especially with the knowledge that others will be spending it with loved ones. If you do not have friends or family about, there are multiple organisations for lonely people to enjoy together. Alternatively, you could spend your time volunteering and helping others with your time, rather than festering on your loneliness.
Be aware of miscommunication
Avoid overindulgence. The festive season is a time for us to enjoy ourselves, but moderation is the key. Abusing alcohol or overindulging on food will not make you feel good in the long run. They can also land you in hospital if you are not too careful. Allow yourself some treats but remember that they will still be there the next day. Your health is not worth abusing for the sake of a holiday.
Keep yourself hydrated. Most of us will be running around to buy gifts, cook dinners, or decorating and cleaning. Keeping yourself hydrated will help you keep motivated and healthy while doing so. It will also help your liver recover if you have overindulged on the alcohol.
Keep active. Once your festive holiday celebrations are over, give yourself time to move about. Try to avoid spending the day on the sofa or in bed. You will feel better for shaking off the celebrations and motivating yourself into the new year.
Another helpful tip is to analyse previous festive seasons and see what affected you the most. This year you could try to overcome the challenges of past Decembers. If time was an issue, create a planner this year to schedule your time better. If family drama ruined your celebrations, see what you could do to prevent it from recurring. December should be a time of peace and joy. Try not to let the pressures of creating it prevent you from actually enjoying your holiday.
My best advice is to stay safe and look after yourself this holiday season.