Avoid financial stress during the holidaysby Kinsey Love, marketing manager, Lewiston State Bank

Fall is a favorite time of year for many reasons: football, fall colors, cooler temperatures and the holiday season. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are arguably some of the most exciting holidays of the year. However, that excitement can also bring a lot of stress, especially financial stress.

To help you manage some of the financial pressure this holiday season, here are six tips to ease your financial burden so you can enjoy the holidays.

  1. Start early. Whether you are shopping for Halloween costumes or buying gifts for family and kids, starting early can keep you out of stressful shopping situations. Starting early will also help you avoid long lines and holiday crowds. Shopping online can help you save time and money if you can find free shipping. Try having all of your Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving.
  2. Use a budget. Instead of deciding how many people you need to buy for, start by deciding how much you are going to spend during the holidays. Then look at how many people you need to buy for and figure out how much you can spend on each. Don’t forget to add in all of the small extra expenses like wrapping paper, party favors, candles for your jack-o-lantern or postage for your Christmas cards.
  3. Be creative. Most of the time, kids don’t care if their Halloween costumes are Hollywood quality. They just have a good time dressing up. Look for ways to reuse old costumes or dressups. Or maybe take a look through grandpa’s closet for old uniforms or clothing items that can be repurposed. When it comes to Christmas, there are lots of inexpensive gifts that still mean a lot. Check out your local dollar stores for neighbor gifts, such as wrapping paper or bows that are $1 each. And don’t forget that the “gift of time” goes a long way. Offer to babysit your sister’s kids, have a one-on-one date with your kids, or spend time making treats with a neighbor.
  4. Use cash. If a written budget is hard to stick to, try using cash as your holiday budget. Withdraw the amount you think you will need, and then pay cash when you buy Halloween costumes and candy or Christmas gifts. Be sure not to carry all your cash with you at once as it is easy to lose or misplace it. Plan ahead and take what you need. That way, when the cash is gone, you are done shopping.
  5. Just say “no.” If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed during the holidays, remember that it is OK to say no. If kids are an appropriate age to understand money and expenses, set financial boundaries with them so they know how much to expect at Christmas time. You can also consider not buying a gift for every single person in your extended family. Maybe try a gift exchange where you draw names and only buy gifts for one person in each family.
  6. Remember what is most important. The holidays are a time for making memories and spending time with family. As the festivities come into full swing, keep in mind that most kids don’t remember how many pieces of candy they got, who made the potato salad for Thanksgiving or even what gifts they received for Christmas. They will remember the people that loved them and the time they spent with their family. So give yourself a break, and remember what is most important during this great time of year.