"It's the most wonderful time of the year," Andy Williams sings in the classic carol, but it's also the most expensive. Between hosting and attending holiday parties (wine for the hostess! new sparkly top!), gifts, and travel, the bill for holiday bliss can be a big one, which leaves you with more than family dynamics to stress about. (Most Americans rank holiday shopping as more stressful than traveling or spending time with extended family, according to a survey from e-commerce platform Needle.)
And here's what makes it worse: in a study from Credit Karma, more than half of respondents said they'd impulse-shopped to deal with feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.
"Stress spending is a bit like having coffee while you are stressed: It's an impulsive behavior that you think will calm you down, but all it does is make you feel even more jittery and anxious," Teodora Pavkovic, a psychologist and life coach tells NBC News.
"It's a vicious cycle because our excessive holiday spending plunges us deeper into debt, which then increase our feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt and shame," says Kelli Saginak, a life coach and professor, told the site.
Online spending in the U.S. is likely to grow nearly 15 percent in 2018 to a total of $124.1 billion. That's a lot of Tickle Me Elmos and Fidget Spinners. But don't worry, you can keep your holiday spending in check by avoiding these pitfalls.
You Don't Make a Budget
Savings for Christmas Shopping Clark & Washington
Got a holiday budget of $1,000? Sorry, that's not good enough. You also need to break that number down by person, Zaneilia Harris, author of Finance 'n Stilettos and president of Harris & Harris Wealth Management told US New and World Report. "The more organized you are and the more detailed you are, the better," she says.
It sounds like a job for excel, advises financial columnist Liz Weston. "Spreadsheets aren't exactly warm, fuzzy and cinnamon-scented," she wrote for the Associated Press. "But they allow us to see our total expected holiday spending and to make adjustments as necessary. (Adjustments are always necessary.)"
You Lean Hard on Credit Cards
"Tons of research shows that people spend more money when they charge things," Kit Yarrow, professor emeritus at Golden Gate University and author of Gen BuY: How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail told BankRate. "If you can pay with cash, you'll always be a little more aware of what those gifts cost."
You Let Your Emotions Get the Best of You
Guilt gifting. Fear of missing out on a flash sale. When will turntables ever be this cheap again?!? Don't make yourself susceptible to the psychology of shopping.
If someone who wasn't on your budget gives you a gift, respond with a really thoughtful card or homemade gift—not by buying them an impulse bottle of fine Champagne. You want to show you value them, but that doesn't always require spending.
"What people have to remind themselves of is that money doesn't equal love or affection," Yarrow said.
Fire sales can also tap into our lizard brains and our fear of scarcity. Black Friday sales and weekend specials create emotionally charged and stressful shopping situations, and a fear of missing out can override common sense. "When everybody is grabbing for something, we feel we should be grabbing for it, too" she said.
Furthermore, don't let yourself be seduced by slashed prices and big savings, warns The Motley Fool. "If you buy a $500 dishwasher for $300, don't look at it as saving $200, view it as spending $300."
You Forget the Value of a Homemade Gift
Food in a Minute
"For some people, their love language is receiving things," Michelle Singletary, author of The 21-day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom, told BankRate. Who's to say that "thing" can't be a homemade thing?
You can go big with a knit scarf or crocheted hat, or small with cookies, chocolate bark, jams, granola, homemade bread, soaps or candles. What about making beautiful, abstract watercolors and buying frames at Ikea? Aren't these gifts way more thoughtful than an Amazon gift card?
Or what about thoughtful vouchers? The parents of two-year-old twins will be overjoyed at a coupon for babysitting and your best friend would likely love lunch on you and a trip to the art museum.
You Fail to See the Big Picture
A guaranteed way to spend your holidays feeling drained is to spend the next six weeks at the mall, looking for parking, and elbowing fellow shoppers out of your path at Williams-Sonoma. What makes the holiday season memorable is all the other stuff: fires, time with loved ones, twinkly lights, rich hot cocoa, and festive events.
Kelli Saginak suggests thinking about how to create a meaningful holiday season "with minimal stress on you, your body, and your bank account.: Ask yourself:
- How do I really want to feel during the holidays?
- What type of holiday do I really want to create and experience?
- What conscious responsible actions will allow me to spread holiday cheer, lower my stress and not add to my money problems?
Celebrating is not the same as shopping, Mary Hunt, founder of DebtProofLiving.com and author of 7 Money Rules for Life, told Bankrate. What we enjoy is the ceremony and the feast of the senses.
"The sights and sounds of Christmas were the reason [my family] loved the mall," Hunt says. "So I would just take a few bucks in my pocket to get a hot chocolate and a cookie. Our purpose was to go see Santa, or to go see the decorations and ride the train." She also remembered the most memorable year being the cheapest.
"The best Christmas we ever had was when we decided to spend $100. The $100 goes fairly quickly. So what do you do for the rest of the season? You visit, you make hot chocolate. We spent the holiday with people and not in the stores. It was, by far, the best holiday ever."
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The National Financial Educators Council (NFEC) surveyed young adults in 2017 and asked them what high school level course would benefit their lives the most.
The majority responded that money management was the course that would be most beneficial.
With personal debt is at its highest record and COVID-19 threatening to have the hardest economic effects on youth, understanding money and finances is an important life lesson that should be taught to children at a young age.
The following is a list of the best financial literacy lessons and tips to teach children throughout different life stages.
I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.
There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).
After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.
It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.
That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.
I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.
Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.
Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).
More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.
The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.
I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.
My buddies and I always try to make it out to a game, but we never really care which one we end up at. Obviously we have our favorite sports and teams, but it was rarely about what game we went to or who we saw playing. It was about watching the game live.
In the early months of lockdown, all we had was Korean baseball, and trust me, we loved it. The only issue was, none of us had any idea what the commentators were saying. Even then, a few of my friends weren't huge fans of baseball. They were into sports like football and basketball, ones that moved at a quicker pace with less down-time in between plays.
We decided to see if there were any other events going down and came across horse racing. Yes, horse racing. It was perfect--short, fast-paced, and most importantly, an opportunity for betting.
I had never really considered watching a horse race any time other than the Belmont Stakes, but the prospects of the sport seemed exhilarating. Even better, with horse racing we knew we could still recreate the atmosphere of a race track. Salty snacks? Check. Stale beer? Check. A simple and easy way to bet? Check.
One quick Google search later, we came across TVG, powered by FanDuel. It's an online betting platform that takes you right to the heart of the action. We were a little apprehensive about using a mobile app to place our bets, but TVG's ability to bet on live horse races from all over the world was too good to pass up.
Here are 5 reasons why we are obsessed with horse racing thanks to TVG:
1. Betting has never been easier
Use your phone or computer to watch and bet on live horse races in real-time. TVG offers a bunch of features to make betting even simpler--live odds and handicapping tips leverage recent learnings to help you make your best bet. Not to mention, TVG's exclusive race content and wagering guide offers an under-the-hood look into the strategy behind horse race betting.
2. The biggest selection of horse races out there
If you're looking to drop a little dough on a horse race, chances are your best option is your local race track. But watching the same few horses races over and over again isn't the most exciting thing. With TVG you have access to over 150 tracks worldwide with races happening consistently throughout the day.
3. Get a generous sign-up offer when you place your first bet
Once you register your account, you will be eligible for a $200 risk-free bet. All you have to do is place your first bet and you're covered. If you happen to lose, TVG will insure you for up to $200 as a sort of wagering credit. I may have been a little trigger happy when placing my first bet, so having this insurance was a great perk. There are also a bunch of promotional offers available year-round.
4. Making deposits and cashing out at the touch of button
With a ton of payment options such as PayPal, BetCash, debit/credit, wire transfers, and other third-party services, making a deposit is a breeze. But what about the payout? Depending on your deposit method, your withdrawal will be available in a few days. No more waiting in-line to collect your winnings!
5. Watching live races with your friends while betting is exhilarating
Even when we were watching Korean baseball, Zoom calls with my friends were a little dull.
With TVG, we haven't had this sort of fun in months! Every weekend we'll turn on a race and throw our bets in. After a few races, and quite a few drinks, we'll tally up our winnings to see who won the most! Sometimes it's not even about making money, but just having a good time.
TVG is the perfect way to add a little excitement to an otherwise mundane afternoon. It introduced me to the world of horse racing, a sport I never would have considered otherwise.
The races just keep ramping up and thanks to TVG, I can always get in on the fun.