prevent Christmas stress

10 Money Tips to Prevent Christmas Stress

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through that day, the adults kept on swearing, “It shouldn’t be this way! We shouldn’t be so flustered—we hate all the hoopla!” Then they stress ate the cookies the kids made for Santa.

Most of us can relate to this story. Christmas stress denies us the true joys of the season. But no more! It’s time to say “Bah! Humbug!” to holiday hassles and actually enjoy Christmas this year.

Try out these 10 money tips to prevent Christmas stress.

1. Budget.

The most important thing you need to do to avoid the stresses of the season is budget for all the things coming up. That includes the gifts, decorations and food.

First, create a whole budget category for gifts, and then assign everyone a budget line—so you keep your spending in line. (Use our Christmas Present Planner to make this super easy!) And so you don’t risk busting this budget, it’s a good idea to add an “oops” line with $20 for anyone you might forget.

Then, if you’re into buying decor, make sure you set a spending amount, and stick to it. Don’t let your dreams of going Griswold-style with the lights on your rooftop bust your whole budget.

Finally, either budget extra money into your grocery line or add a new line item to your food category for Christmas feasts.

2. Track your expenses.

A budget isn’t a programmable thermostat. You can't just punch in some numbers and let it do all the adjusting for you. You know this, but it’s worth the reminder this time of year. For a budget to thrive, you’ve got to actually get in there and track your expenses.

And you can’t take a Christmas vacation from tracking your expenses, or you’ll create a really stressful situation come January 1 when you realize you’ve spent all your money—or worse, gone into debt (that’s a major holiday no-no).

3. Don’t go into debt.

Okay. This is so important, we’re going to dive even deeper in. Don’t go into debt trying to create what you think Christmas should be, or to live up to the impressions you hope to make, or to fulfill obligations that are weighting you down. It’s not worth it. Seriously, you don’t want the stress of paying off all that debt in the new year—so don’t lie to yourself trying to pretend tomorrow’s problem doesn’t matter today.

Avoid the stress debt brings. Avoid debt this season—and always.

4. Don't overcommit. 

You’re just one person. But around the holidays, you might start to wish there were three of you (at least) to finish all the shopping, deck all the halls, bake all the pies, and meet all the obligations.

Stop wishing you could multiply yourself (even if it’s all you want for Christmas and you’ve been very, very good all year). Instead, start saying no when you need to!

And guess what? You don’t even have to give an excuse. You don’t have to worry Santa will put you on the naughty list. You’re a full-grown adult, and you don’t have to drain your time and money to satisfy everyone else’s expectations.

5. Avoid random gift exchanges.

Put an end to the gift exchanges at your work, bowling league or book club—most likely you’ll just end up wasting your money to get something you don’t even want. Again, just politely say no thanks. Buying gifts for the people on your list is already plenty to budget for. You don’t need the financial (or shopping) stress of a pointless present.

6. Be selective about holiday traditions. 

What would happen this year if you didn’t send out Christmas cards to everyone you ever met or were related to? We’re pretty sure you’d save money, and not lose love.

What would happen if you drove around neighborhoods to see free lights instead of paying a hefty fee to drive through the professionally decorated Christmas light display? We’re pretty sure you’d still make memories.

We aren’t saying you should nix every tradition that makes Christmas mean something to you. But don’t follow a tradition just because everyone else is doing it. And don’t overspend (time or money) on sentiment.

7. Spend less time on social media.

From Facebook to Instagram, you’ll see lots of perfect table settings and pricey presents this time of year. And it’s easy to compare what you’re doing (or not doing) to what everyone else is doing. But comparing yourself to others only takes away your joy. Find contentment in what you have and in how you celebrate.

If you find yourself playing the comparison game, take a little break from social media and post your sweetest pics after the spending season ends. It’s a small tweak in your daily routine that can bring you big results: fewer comparisons and more joy that lasts.  

8. Organize your shopping.

You’ll save sanity, gas money and time if you take fewer trips to the store. Organize your shopping so you aren’t running out on a million side trips to grab the ingredients to make Grandpa’s traditional raisin pie or to buy a forgotten present for your sister-in-law.

Make solid lists for gifts and groceries. Try the in-store pickup option so you can fill up that online cart while keeping an eye on the budget (and skipping the hassle of running all over the store). Look at prices online for things that will ship in time—and for free—to save you money and a trip to the mall. And if you have to go out, don’t do it a bazillion times.

9. Sort your priorities.

This is a major life lesson, really. But let’s focus on the holidays right now. You can’t be everywhere, do everything, and please everyone. And that’s okay! It’s time to find balance within all the traditions and obligations, the gifts and gatherings (even the virtual ones). The way you do that is by sorting your priorities.

What are the main—the most important—memories you want to make and moments you want to savor this season? That’s what you put at the top of your to-do list. These are the things worth spending your time and money on.

Of course, unless you want to become a total holiday hermit, you’ll still have to keep a few Christmas commitments that aren’t at the top of your personal priorities. Leave room in your schedule for a few priorities of those nearest and dearest to you too.

10. Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

The song really does have some incredible advice. “Let your heart be light” by gathering those dear to your heart near to you this holiday season—any way you can. Because that’s what it’s all about. Maybe our troubles won’t go away, but we can spend intentional time thinking more about our blessings and less about all the other stresses in life.

You’ll need to do a little work to make it happen—planning, budgeting, prioritizing and saying no when you need to. Those things aren’t always easy in the beginning. But following these tips will mean way less stress—and way less time focusing on things that don’t matter so you can be intentional about what does matter.

And hey, if you’re feeling super money stressed, check out our Ramsey+ and Total Money Makeover Bundle. You can feel peace—even empowerment—with your money all year long. With this bundle, you’ll get the confidence and motivation to do just that.

This year, make it a goal to ditch that stress and replace it with peace and joy. It’s the best gift you can give yourself.