The holidays: it’s the most wonderful time of the year — or so the saying goes. But anyone living on a small budget knows this isn’t always the case.

Money — or a lack thereof — is a major source of stress for 61 percent of Christmas shoppers. If you feel like a raw bundle of nerves this year, you can manage your anxiety with the following tips. These money-saving tricks can help lower your stress, so you can stop and enjoy the gingerbread this year.

Get Organized

Organization is key during the holidays. Not only will it save you from running around like a headless chicken, it will also help you keep on track of your spending. Financial organization hinges on a well-made budget. This tool will show you:

  • how much you can afford to spend
  • how much you can expect to spend

How are they different and why does it matter?

The price that you can afford is something only your finances can tell you

You’ll have to track your expenses for at least three months to see how much of your paycheck is usually left over after you pay off bills and other obligations. Tracking as far back as last Christmas will be even better, as you’ll see where you went wrong last year.

With the past year’s expenses laid out in front of you, you can see patterns in the way you spend your money. These patterns are opportunities for savings, as long as you’re willing to make some changes.

Of course, things like your rent or mortgage will make a common withdrawal, as will auto loans or insurance payments. These big payments come with contracts and obligations that you can’t easily change, so let’s not think about them right now.

Let’s think about what you can change as soon as you finish reading this article. Small purchases on things like takeout, entertainment, groceries, or even interest on personal loans — these categories of spending are easier targets for savings than rent.

You can follow a money-saving guide to help you reduce or eliminate these expenses from your budget. But don’t assume these guides will deprive you of fun stuff during the holidays. There are ways to make sacrifices without feeling like you’re missing out. You can click here to learn more about how saving can be easy.

In many cases, saving is all about finding substitutes for your favourite things, so you aren’t totally deprived, like:

Bad Habit


Buying a morning latte before work Bringing a homemade coffee in a thermos and investing in flavoured coffee whiteners
Ordering takeout for lunch Bringing a brown-bagged lunch
Signing up for every streaming subscription Choosing just one streaming service with the best content

Even eliminating your daily takeout coffee can free up more than $1,000 in a year! You can reinvest that grand (or more) into your holidays.

How much you expect to spend depends on your shopping list.

Regardless of your success at eliminating bad habits, a budget shows you the hard limit of what you can afford. How much you actually spend, on the other hand, depends on your behaviour at the mall. It also relies on your expectations for the season — like if you want to travel to see family or host the holidays at your place.

We all have the best intentions at the start of the season. We promise ourselves we’ll shop according to our budget and keep things small. But somewhere between massive holiday sales and free online shipping, we slip up.

A list can help you stay on course and buy only what you need. It also helps prioritize your holidays. For example, if your list shows you’ll be spending more of your budget on travel to visit your parents, you know you’ll have to find ways to save money on gifts.

When you figure out how to divide your budget across your responsibilities before you purchase anything, you’ll be less likely to overspend impulsively on things you don’t need.

Manage expectations

For many of us, Christmas is an important part of our lives, and we want everything to run smoothly — no matter what. This investment can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can help you organize a seamless holiday. On the other hand, it can drive you crazy chasing the impossible.

Performance anxiety is a major contributor to your stress levels during the holidays. You want to be able to RSVP ‘yes’ to every cocktail party, soiree, and dinner that you’re invited to this year. You want to be able to leave a mountain of presents under the tree for your kids. You want to host the entire family for a gourmet dinner.

Unfortunately, you can’t always get what you want. It’s important to understand your limitations during the holidays to help limit the stress you feel. Realize you can say ‘no’ to some things and still have an amazing holiday.

The bottom line? Chill out

Do you feel feverish anytime you think about braving the malls in December? Does the sound of Michael Buble’s baritone crooning carols on Spotify break you out in a cold sweat? Do you feel your insides twist when a family friend asks your availability for dinner? If these symptoms sound familiar, you have a bad case of holiday stress.

The good news is, like the common cold, holiday stress can be soothed with the right care. Rather than throat lozenges and cough syrup, you need to be accountable to your feelings and your bank account. If you’re stressed around the holidays, it’s up to you to recognize the signs and take the time to relax. Managing expectations, creating a budget, and following a list are three ways you can take control of your feelings during the hustle and bustle of the season.