AMES, Iowa -- As the holiday season quickly approaches, holiday stressors tend to sneak up as well. These additional commitments for time and money can zap the happy from the holidays, says Dawn Dunnegan, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“With already hectic schedules, many of us add holiday shopping, baking, wrapping and decorating to our list of things to do,” said Dunnegan, who specializes in family life issues.
“We may have office, family or neighborhood parties to go to; house guests to get ready for; or travel plans to make. There may be programs for our children or in our faith communities that we want to attend,” Dunnegan said.
“Not only are all of the additional commitments and running challenging; but this is the season where the financial expectations can increase to significantly stressful levels too,” Dunnegan said.
Dunnegan offers the following tips for taking control of time and money commitments during the holidays.
“First, set a budget and look at what your family can reasonably afford to spend during this holiday season. Remember to consider the extra driving, extra groceries and possibly clothes for programs and parties. This is in addition to the gifts and decorations that often are extra expenses during this season,” Dunnegan said.
“Second, planning is key. If you have a plan in place, you will be able to be more realistic about what you can and cannot do in a given day or week and what you realistically can afford to spend or not spend,” Dunnegan said. “A written plan or schedule is best. This also will help you reduce missed appointments or obligations and avoid overspending during these months.”
Another thing to consider during the holidays, Dunnegan said, “is to reduce demands and certainly do not add to them. It is OK to say no. Others don’t know what your schedule might look like, so protect yourself and your time by saying no to the things that will cause undue stress to you and your family. Some things simply are not flexible, but if you can delay a home move, a job change, a home improvement or other big life event until after the holidays, this will reduce the stress on you and your family and increase the pleasure of this time together.”
Many communities have programs for food and sometimes gifts for families who need special support during the holiday season.
“Contact your Iowa State University Extension and Outreach county office to be connected with helpful local agencies and organizations,” Dunnegan said.
ISU Extension and Outreach also has information and publications that can help. “Using What You Have to Get What You Want -- Stress, Taking Charge” is available for free download from the Extension Store. Additional tips on parenting, finance and family matters are available from ISU Extension and Outreach county offices.
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