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  • Kathy Goul, K-State Research & Extension Service

Budgeting for the Winter Holidays: It’s Not All About the Money

Submitted by Kathy Goul, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent

K-State Research & Extension, Marais des Cygnes District



Hoping this year to have the perfect holiday? Experts advise not to put unnecessary stress on your family by shooting for perfection. (Wix file photo)


From Thanksgiving to New Years, winter holidays can be stressful – both mentally and

financially. Many times during the holiday season, our focus shifts to finances. Do I have funds

to make a trip to see family? Is the gift I want to purchase affordable? Am I able to purchase

food for my guests?


While finances are important, we must also take time to review our mental health during the

holidays. What part of the season is causing stress? What can I do to reduce the amount of

stress I am experiencing? How does my stress affect others around me?


As celebrations are planned, we must move beyond thinking in terms of our financial concerns, and also consider the mental stress that accompanies the season. Family Resource Management Specialist for Kansas State University, Elizabeth Kiss, suggests that one way to approach holidays is managing our time, energy and money.


“Things to think about are what’s important to us as individuals and what is it that our family most enjoys about the holidays," she said. "We should direct our time and energy toward those things, which for many families it is just being together.”


Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of the holidays. This can not only be stressful from a financial standpoint, but a mental standpoint as well. The perfectionism and high standards that we place on ourselves can be draining. We should focus on the joy of being together, rather than creating the perfect holiday dish or having a spotless, well-decorated house. The stress of trying to recreate a scene from popular social media sites can quickly remove joy from the holiday season.


To help reduce stress during the holidays, work to keep a normal routine between celebrations.


Regular mealtimes, complete with nutritious foods, and plenty of sleep will go a long way in

eliminating some of the stress that accompanies the season. It is especially important that

children’s schedules remain as normal as possible. There is a lot of stimulation for children and they may be eating differently – maybe more sweets than usual – so keeping mealtimes at a regular time and keeping bedtime fairly regular is important.


Keeping children physically active also helps eliminate stress. Being outdoors or in an indoor

atmosphere where it’s okay for kids to run around can also help. Consider having board games available for the family to enjoy if going outside is not an option. Not only does this keep the kids engaged, it is a way for the entire family to have quality time together while enjoying the holiday.


To help eliminate financial stress during the holidays, consider your choice of food for events

and gatherings, as well as the amount of money you spend on gifts. It is no secret that food costs have increased dramatically over the past year. If some of the choices for traditional holiday foods are outside of your budget, consider what you might serve instead. A favorite pasta dish or soup may provide a cost-effective solution. While we like our traditional holiday meals, making a change this year can reduce our holiday stress – both financial and mental.


Setting specific guidelines on gift-giving will also help. Have a conversation with your family

members, or friends, about what is an appropriate amount to spend – making sure everyone in the group has an equal say in the decision-making process. Compare prices, check sales and pay cash whenever possible. This will eliminate holiday stress that may follow us into the new year when those credit card bills arrive!


Make the holidays what you want them to be, and be comfortable with what you decide. The

primary focus should be on our family and friends. Budget your time, energy and money.


Enjoy your celebrations and do not add stress to the season by comparing them to what you see on social media. Holiday celebrations are unique to each family or group of friends. Embrace your “uniqueness” and have a joyous holiday season!

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