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How To Minimize Your Gift-Giving Anxiety This Holiday Season

Emily wants the latest iPhone. Terry wants a new Xbox. Jaden wants a new pair of Nike Air Max 270s. And your mother keeps hinting she would really like a Fitbit for when she goes walking with the neighborhood ladies. Your family has not been subtle about the gifts they are hoping to receive this holiday season. Don’t they realize you’re struggling to keep your spending within a budget? Even with Black Friday deals, you’re feeling the pressure of getting your family what they want this year while trying not to break the bank.

If you’re feeling anxious and stressed about what you’re spending on holiday gifts this time of year, you are not alone. According to a Bankrate’s 2018 Holiday Gifting Survey, more than 2 in 5 Americans feel pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable with during the holiday season. Why do we do this to ourselves?

We often feel the need to have our gifts ‘measure up’. We feel pressure to spend more than we really want to so that our kids can tell their friends they got the hottest game, sneaker or electronic device. This makes us feel worthy, important and successful. We may also be spending more as a way of compensating for our feelings of inadequacy or failure. There are so many emotions tied into gift-giving and it’s important we recognize how our actions result from our emotions on this.

In many ways, gift giving feels better for the ‘giver’ than the ‘receiver’. While the ‘receiver’ gets the pleasure of the new toy, gadget, sweater, etc., this pleasure is fleeting. Ask your kids what they got for Christmas last year and my guess I they’d have to think long and hard to remember what you gave them. For the giver, the feeling of pleasure and happiness is much more profound. Studies routinely show that when you give someone a gift, your body releases endorphins that cause you to feel joy, love and pleasure.


Ask yourself “Am I giving this expensive gift for the recipient’s pleasure or for my own?”

Chances are, it is your desire to feel great when your loved ones open that beautifully wrapped gift that is at the root of your holiday spending.

But this is coming at a huge cost that lasts a lot longer than the time your kid will play with their new toy! According to NerdWallet’s 2020 Holiday Shopping Report, a third of Americans report still carrying the credit card debt they incurred from last year’s holiday shopping! That’s close to 40 million of us who still haven’t paid off last year’s spending.

The madness has to stop somewhere and maybe this is the year to do it. Here are four suggestions to help you get off the holiday debt train:

  1. Stick to a budget: I know, I know…. Too obvious, right? But do you actually do it? For this holiday season, Money Mentor Group has created an easy to use Holiday Budget Tracker for you to use. Click here to receive your copy.
  2. Gift Exchange: This year, why not organize a gift exchange! If you’re feeling the pinch of holiday spending, don’t you think other family members are too? Everyone picks a name and buys for that one person. With this system, everyone gets a gift that’s meaningful but no one has the stress of overspending. This is what our family is doing this year! We set a $100 limit so everyone had to get very strategic about what we asked for.
  3. Ask People What They Truly Want: Ever give a gift that you thought was fabulous only to watch the recipient clearly pretend to like it after it was opened? You get that sinking feeling in your stomach that your gift was a dud….. Just ask people instead!
  4. Get Creative: Some of us are crafty and can make beautiful gifts if we plan ahead. If you’re not creative or crafty, you can give the gift of an ‘experience’ such as a certificate for babysitting, teaching your grandchild to do something you’re talented in (skiing, baking, playing guitar, etc.) or even offer to clean their house for a month!

This year is clearly different from other holiday seasons in so many ways. You may not even be getting together with extended family this year and if you do, you may be sitting outside or wearing masks. It’s a year like no other, for sure. So why not start some new gift-giving traditions that don’t leave you broke!

Happy Holidays from Jane, Karen and Alissa at Money Mentor Group!