The holidays should be a joyous time spent with friends and family; however, stressing over finances can put a damper on the fun. The holidays can be especially concerning for those who are unemployed or at risk of losing their jobs.

“If you’re feeling anxious during the holiday season, the first thing you want to determine is why,” said Dale Parsons, Director of Therapy Services at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center. “Is it due to social expectations or guilt? If so, it’s important to realize that it’s okay to live within your means. In fact, a simple and thoughtfully-planned holiday can be the same, if not better, than a more extravagant one.”

The experts at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center have provided tips to stay stress-free during the holidays, especially when it comes to your finances:

Get organized. Make a gift-giving list that outlines who you will buy gifts for and what you plan on buying. Then, scope out coupons and deals. Pay attention to return policies, and save receipts for items you purchase so that you can track how much you are spending. 

Stick to a budget. Determine in advance how much you can afford to spend in total. Create a gift budget for each person on your list and add up the total. If the total exceeds your budget, reduce your list of gift recipients to a more manageable number, or spend less on each person. 

Don’t procrastinate. Don’t wait until last minute to do your shopping. Spread shopping out throughout several weeks or months so that you have time to comparison shop. Lack of time can cause you to panic and overspend on higher-priced gifts.

Get creative. Opt for a gift exchange with family and friends. Draw names from a hat so that each person is only responsible for one gift. Set a spending limit that everyone is comfortable with and have fun with it!

Give the gift of time. Find a free or inexpensive activity you can do with a friend or family member. Instead of buying them a gift, treat them to breakfast or volunteer at a local soup kitchen together.

Be good to your body. Take care of yourself. Eating a health snack before holiday parties helps you to control overeating. Watch your alcohol intake and drink plenty of water. Keep to your exercise routines. Each of these helps to reduce stress.

Ask for help. If you’re hosting a holiday party, ask guests to bring their favorite side dish or dessert. You will save a great deal of money at the grocery store, and you’ll be sure that there is truly something on the menu for everyone.

“Stay focused on the true meaning of the holidays — and, if all else fails, seek help from a counselor to manage your holiday stress before it escalates to an unhealthy level,” said Parsons.