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    Financial Planning | 3 min read

    Tips for Balancing Stress and Your Holiday Budget

    The holidays can already be a stressful time of year, and money is one of the leading causes of holiday anxiety for Americans. But this year, typical holiday stress is exacerbated by inflationary forces.

    The best time for holiday budgeting begins early in the year when smart shoppers account for expenses associated with the holiday gift season in their monthly budgets and buy presents here and there throughout the year.

    However, if you’re like most people, you likely have not planned very far ahead and could find yourself feeling the pinch in January. But don’t despair—with proper accounting and a handful of smart shopping ideas, it is possible to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list and stay within your budget.

    Sticking to Your Holiday Budget

    Here are a few pointers to help you stick to your holiday budget and manage your seasonal financial stress:

    • Make a list and check it twice. Review your shopping list carefully. Does everyone listed on it truly need to be there?
    • Set limits. Write down maximum dollar limits for each person, vow to stay within that limit, and track how much you spend.
    • Shop early. The best window for holiday shopping is between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1.
    • Buy in bulk. Have something on hand for those unexpected presents. A case of wine or elegant candles are great ideas.
    • Be realistic. Ask yourself if you can really afford to buy gifts—don’t feel obligated to buy them if you can’t afford them.
    • Talk to your friends and family about scaling back. Propose doing a gift exchange instead of buying gifts for everyone or consider going the homemade gift route.
    • Shop online. Some of the best bargains won’t be found in stores. Many retailers will waive shipping costs during the holidays. Plus, why spend the days before your holiday celebrations wasting gas and battling crowds for items that may not be in stock?
    • Get a holiday job. Even with a good budget, the extra holiday shopping can pinch the pocketbook. Consider working a seasonal job.

    Holiday Meals on a Budget

    Rising food costs continue to be a concern and groceries are more expensive than ever. When you’re thinking about cutting costs to prepare for holidays meal, a little creativity and culinary guidance can help you take simple ingredients and transform them into great holiday meals and save you some dough—cash, not the flour-based kind.

    You may be familiar with the classic ways to save money on groceries like avoiding shopping when you’re hungry and buying generic products instead of brand-name equivalents. But how do these tips apply when inflation is making even generic products more expensive? Here are some tips to help you through the holiday season to put food on your family table.

    Frozen instead of fresh. If you're trying to pinch pennies, consider purchasing frozen vegetables over fresh ones. The frozen section can serve grocery shoppers well while they look to save. Plenty of good options live in the frozen aisle—and they last a long time, too, pushing your dollar even further. The frozen variety is just as nutritious as fresh vegetables and lasts infinitely longer. Stockpile bags of peas, corn, broccoli, diced potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mixes like peppers and onions.

    Order Groceries Online. If you want to keep your grocery bill down, you’re going to want to avoid impulse purchases. Grocery stores do everything they can to distract you from your grocery list and encourage those impulse buys with tempting food displays, in-store sampling, and strategically placed merchandise. Most shoppers don’t realize how much money they waste on impulse buys at the grocery store. I’ve got a panty of impulse-purchased food that has been sitting for months.

    Shop for lower-cost staples. Shopping for whole foods and staples instead of prepared foods and convenience items will save you money, but you’ll need to be prepared to spend more time in the kitchen. Anything that has been chopped, diced, sliced, or pre-seasoned will cost more. Consider buying the whole fruit or vegetable and larger slabs of meat to save 40-60%. By swapping overpriced convenience foods for less expensive staples—name-brand cereal vs. store-brand oatmeal, for example—you not only save money but also get more nutrition per dollar.

    After another challenging and stressful year, we hope this holiday season will be full of good cheer for you and your loved ones. Take each day in stride and always remember to practice self-care and positive habits that keep you mentally and physically healthy all year long.

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    Amanda Harr

    A graduate of the Plan II Honors program at UT Austin, Amanda Harr is the Content Manager for SWBC. A clever wordsmith who appreciates artful persuasion and authenticity in writing, Amanda uses a structured creative process to craft marketing strategies, develop communications solutions, and deliver top-notch content.

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