Money – or the Lack Thereof – Remains Top
Products and its partners suggest that consumers rein in expectations and keep
things simple to begin to manage holiday stress. Below, personal finance expert Jean Chatzky and time management expert Julie
Morgenstern, both New York Times best-selling authors, interpret the survey results and provide tips for
surviving and thriving this upcoming holiday season.
It’s no longer what you give but who you give to.
SURVEY FINDING: Last year, when asked what is most stressful about holiday gift-giving, respondents chose “selecting the right gift.” This year, when asked the same question, respondents’ top concern is that the number of people on their list is more than they can afford to buy for.
CHATZKY: “Start by setting a holiday budget—the total amount you want to spend on gifts. Then divide that number, equally or not, among the people on your list. Stretch your dollars with coupons, which are everywhere this year, but also with creativity. Buy a gift for a couple or a family instead of individuals. Or chip in with one sibling to split the cost on a gift for another.”
MORGENSTERN: “To organize your thoughts around spending, come up with criteria for deciding who you give gifts to and who you don’t. For example, consider giving gifts to the children on your list, and business associates. For adult family and friends, suggest gifts which take the form of time together. Host a potluck holiday dinner or knitting party; conduct music or cooking lessons by you (depending on your talents); a jaunt to the movies or the local manicure salon with your gal pals. It will show people that you care, while taking the spending pressure off everyone—and most folks will appreciate that.”
Do I hear discounts on aisle 5?
CHATZKY: “You can greatly reduce your spending merely by shopping around, and there are so many comparison shopping sites, to help you. When you find the best deal, take the plunge. Inventories are leaner this year and you don’t want to miss out on getting what you want by waiting for the price to drop further. But save your receipts. Many retailers will let you capture price reductions for up to 14 days after you buy.”
Venus – you’re more stressed than Mars.
SURVEY FINDING: It’s a fact! As compared to men, women feel more stressed approaching this holiday season than they did last year. While the rank order of the top three stressful activities remained identical between men and women all of the holiday activities noted by the survey cause women more stress than their male counterparts.
MORGENSTERN: “To the degree women still tend to feel ultimately responsible for running the household—as well as the ‘go-to’ by filling in the gaps at work left by downsizing—the economic crunch has created significant additional time pressure. Making dollars stretch requires extra hours spent planning out budgets, searching for bargains, monitoring bank accounts and credit card balances to avoid overdrafts, cooking instead of takeout, and doing laundry more often. These added time burdens add stress.”
SURVEY FINDING: Possibly an early indication for Cyber Monday results, “shopping in crowded stores and malls” ranked among the top three most stressful activities across all age categories, ethnicities, and income levels.
MORGENSTERN: “Shopping by catalog or online is a great way to save time, as long as you
don’t overdo the browsing. Shop two to three favorite websites that offer a wide selection. For people on your list who live in another city, simplify mailing by having the site gift wrap and send your gifts directly to the recipient. To keep track of all your purchases, print out a record of every order, including delivery dates for online orders, and store in a file named ‘Gifts Purchased.’”
Jot it down; you’ll feel better.
SURVEY FINDING: With more than half of the survey’s respondents taking time at least once a week to plan, a “to-do list” is perceived as the most helpful tool for dealing with stress, with meditation, and exercise a close second.
MORGENSTERN: “I couldn’t agree more. A to-do list gets things out of your head and onto paper. You can take it a step further and transfer to-dos directly onto your calendar. For every holiday task (i.e., shopping, wrapping gifts, planning meals, etc.), ask yourself how long it will realistically take, and when you will do it…then write that task on the specific day in your calendar you intend to do it. No matter how much is going on, ask yourself what routine activity you find the most grounding (i.e., exercise, meditation, playing the piano), and be sure to anchor your days around that. Never give that up, as it will keep you grounded throughout the holidays.”
Products surveyed 1,007 male and female consumers, 18-years and older across
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