For many adults, the holidays are both a wonderful time of the year spent celebrating with loved ones and a really stressful time spent worrying. Will the store have the toy your kid has to have? Did you choose the right present for your spouse, and will he or she think you spent too much (or not enough?)
Sadly, the holiday season brings credit card bills, economic pressure, and other financial concerns along with the cheery eggnog, caroling, and cookies. Sure, you may get a kiss under the mistletoe -- but mistletoe, fir trees and poinsettias don't come cheap.
What worries Americans over the holidays?
Stress, worry and fear abounds among holiday shoppers this year, a new survey from Experian (EXPG.F 1.37%) found.
"One-third of all those surveyed said they feel anxious about holiday shopping in one way or another -- with one of the top three worries being finding enough money to buy gifts," wrote Experian Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for Consumer Services in a post on the company's website.
The Experian report showed that consumers also worried about going deeper into debt and being able to stick to their holiday budgets. And of course, it's hard to stick to something that does not exist. "Those worries conflict with the fact that only one-third of shoppers set a holiday gift budget, even though they plan to spend an average of $846 on gifts -- up 14% from last year," wrote Ward.
Shoppers, he added, are also worried that they won't have enough room on their credit cards to buy gifts. Despite that, "more than three-quarters of all shoppers say they won't do anything to monitor how their holiday shopping affects their credit scores," according to Experian's research.
What should you do?
No matter where you are in your holiday shopping, it's important to do a reality check. You need to figure out what you have spent and how much shopping you have left to do. If you failed to make a budget to guide your shopping, go back and make a retroactive budget. If you've finished buying all your presents, figure out if any can be returned. It's never too late to do the right thing. Even if you spent too much, it's important to know that you did that. Once you figure out the depth of the problem, you can make a plan to pay down your credit cards or build your savings back up in the new year.
It's easy to get swept up in the excitement of the holiday season, but that's not an excuse for spending frivolously. Don't punish yourself for the past or whatever mistakes you can't reverse. Instead, embrace doing the right thing going forward. Do as much as you can to understand where you went wrong and what it takes to have a more successful holiday season next year.
This could mean a harsh post-holiday reality. Perhaps you need to make some major cuts in order to get back on track. Still, it's better to do that than ignore the problem and get yourself into more trouble going forward.
With finances, you're always better off tackling the problem head-on. Budgeting and learning may not be the most fun and festive activities, and it may lead to some growing pains in 2019, but it's sure to be better than keeping your head in the sand and derailing your long-term financial future.