By Elizabeth Ayoola | Nerdy Wallet
Marketing ads, family functions, and holiday gifting culture can make it seem impossible not to spend or, for some, overspend. According to a 2023 survey from NerdWallet, about half of Americans (52%) incurred credit card debt when buying gifts during the holidays last year, and nearly a third (31%) of them still haven’t. paid.
While giving can be noble, consider setting limits when it comes to lending and spending money during the holidays.
Step 1: Set monetary goals for 2024
It can be difficult to control your spending during the holidays if you don’t have a reason. Begin the process of mapping out your financial goals for 2024 to help avoid spending myopia. For example, if you want to make larger payments on your student loan or save for a down payment on a new car next year, spending too much during the holidays could hurt you.
“Be really brutally honest about what your financial commitments are for January and February. [are]” says Yvette Murry, a clinical social worker in Princeton, New Jersey, who helps clients with their financial well-being.
Starting your 2024 budget now can help prevent unwanted debt and regrets when the new year arrives.
Step 2: Practice saying no to requests
Prices are high and loan applications this time of year could be too. As much as you may feel obligated to play Santa and hand out cash to everyone who asks, it could put you in a financial bind come the new year.
“Too often we do what others want us to do and then we find ourselves in a position that really isn’t the best for us or our families or our mental health,” Murry says.
When you receive requests that exceed your capacity, be prepared to say no. For those who aren’t familiar with “no,” Traci Williams, a financial therapist and certified psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, offers an example of how to say it.
“You can say something like, ‘Thank you so much for thinking of me when you planned this.’ I can’t do it because it’s out of my budget,’” Williams says. “Something this simple and brief can help preserve the relationship.”
Consider including a “loan bucket” in your budget, which includes an amount that won’t impact your finances. You may also want to limit yourself to lending only what you can afford and not get back.
Step 3: Understand When It’s Okay to Feel Guilty
Guilt can arise when you say no, whether it’s asking for money, traveling to see family, or buying your partner an expensive gift. When we say no, we can feel guilty because of the expectations we have of ourselves, our family, and society, Williams says.
“If you can tune into what’s really important to you, what your real values are, and you can hold firm to them, you’re less likely to feel guilty,” she says.
To deal with those difficult feelings, Williams suggests identifying them first.
“A lot of people feel things and don’t realize what the real feeling is,” he says. Once you name the feeling, you can counteract it by reinforcing why you made that decision, she adds. For example, if you have to say no to buying gifts this year, remember the importance of creating financial stability for yourself.
Step 4: Explore your motivations around Christmas spending
Many of our money habits can be driven by subconscious beliefs or motivations, even during the holidays. To understand why you’re making certain financial decisions, Murry suggests asking yourself the motivation behind lending someone money or spending it.
“Am I looking to right a wrong? Am I looking to fulfill a need I had as a child? Ask yourself, ‘Why am I making those decisions?’” he says.
Understanding your motivations for spending can help you reinforce boundaries and potentially establish new money beliefs rooted in values you want to emulate. For example, if you find that you spend too much on gifts because your parents taught you that gifts are the best way to show love, you may decide that giving intangible gifts of time or love is more important to you.
Step 5: Remember that Christmas pressure is normal
The holiday pressure is real and it can cause us to go over our budgets. Recognizing that holiday pressure is normal can help you stay focused and on budget. Williams says to remember that you don’t have to do everything, and expecting that of yourself is unrealistic.
“Recognizing that pressure exists and that marketing is doing its job can help you remember to stick to your own goals,” he says.
This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.
Elizabeth Ayoola writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.