More joy, less stress: save your sanity–and your wallet–this holiday season

December 04, 2019
By Lacy Wolff, ERS Health Program Administrator

woman at table stressed over Christmas giftsImagine a world where holidays are primarily about spending time with loved ones and enjoying experiences, food and traditions that don’t include shopping or expensive gifts.

Many Americans struggle to make ends meet during and after the holidays due to budget—busting gifts, extravagant parties and expensive travel—all of which can be exhausting, too. We often feel guilty if someone gives us a gift and we don’t have something in return. Then we run out and get something that the other person likely doesn’t need or want.

Most people don’t need more physical things, and changing our mindset around the holidays can relieve a lot of mental, emotional and financial stress. With that in mind, focus on ways you can cut spending back and give gifts that come from the heart.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can make the holidays less stressful and more joyful:
  • Talk to your family members and coworkers about a gift or gift card exchange. This way you only have to bring one gift, not dozens.
  • Make something that comes from the heart like breakfast tacos, cookies, breads, ornaments, soaps, lotions, or candles. Make the same thing for everyone. Don’t stress about buying things.
  • Write thank you notes or letters on nice stationary. The gift of gratitude and love through written word is something that friends and family can hold onto for a lifetime and read over and over again.
  • Give one of your talents, like a photo shoot if you are a photographer, a home-cooked meal if you enjoy cooking, an auto detailing if you are a car enthusiast or a closet makeover if you like to organize.
  • Plan a book exchange. Everyone brings a book they own and have already read (or don’t plan on reading) to give away.
If you are a little uncomfortable talking with family members about a new tradition that doesn’t include expensive gifts, keep in mind they probably feel the same way. The first step is to have the conversation. Do it early and stop the madness so you can enjoy the holiday season guilt—and stress—free.