If you’re already feeling holiday money anxiety, you’re not alone.
A survey conducted by LearnVest and online retailer zulily found that financial stress is rampant at the holidays, as consumers stress over jam-packed shopping trips, the pressure to find “perfect” gifts and trying to stick to a budget.
Here's how to dial back your money panic so you can celebrate the season without living in fear of your next credit card statement.
Do More of Your Shopping Online
The most stressful parts of holiday shopping, according to respondents of the 2016 LearnVest/zulily holiday survey, are dealing with crowds (45%), followed by finding the perfect gift for each person on the gift list (42%) and the long lines (39%).
The solution: Shop more from your computer or phone. Picking out sweaters, toys and other items with just a few taps or swipes from your living room means you don't have to deal with pushy salespeople and nightmare parking situations.
Get Your Shopping Done Early
Another interesting find from the survey: 19% of respondents said that finishing their shopping by December would relieve holiday stress the most. You know those people who holiday-shop all year long? They’re on to something.
While you can’t go back in time, you still don't have to wait until the last minute to get that game your nephew is begging you for. You can set a realistic deadline for yourself now to finish your gift-shopping by — say, mid-December — so you have at least a couple of weeks to relax.
Another plus to starting sooner: You can take advantage of early sales and have the time to comparison-shop to make sure you’re scoring the best deal. Write out what you’d like to get each person on your list so you know what to look for and not get wrapped up in hunting down the so-called perfect gift.
Keep Your Budget in Line
The lure of the holidays makes it easier than ever to blow your budget. No wonder 47% of survey respondents cited a financial hangover caused by overspending as their top post-holiday fear.
Of course, one way to stick to your budget is to rely on common-sense cost-cutting strategies, such as downloading coupons and scouting out sales. But also consider asking your friends to give gifts Secret Santa–style, so you don’t have to buy presents for everyone, or to chuck the gift-giving in favor of a holiday dinner you host (so you can control costs). Or DIY gifts like baked goods in festive packaging or framed photos of family members.
Write out your budget and how much you can afford to spend on each person or on other expenses, like holiday travel or decorations for your home. Writing it down helps reinforce it and make it concrete.