It’s the most wonderful time of the year! December is a month full of food, family, goodwill, and cheer. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, yet the majority of Americans report feeling stressed during this month.
The Stress of the Holidays
A 2017 America Psychological Association study found that 62% of Americans stress about money and 61% stress about work during the holidays. The added pressure of shortened deadlines and end of year demands, plus the added stress of holiday plans, can be overwhelming. Equally difficult is the financial strain the holidays put on families. It’s no wonder that 31% of people end up feeling frantic during December.
How can you shake that financial holiday hangover to ensure the stress turns into success? One of the main roadblocks to financial success it not taking the time to create a baseline on where your finances are currently. Putting a pen to paper and jotting down your reoccurring monthly expenses can be eye opening. You might uncover that you are overspending in ways you didn’t realize – I am looking at you pumpkin spice lattes and happy hour cocktails!
It is easy to stay passive and reactive when it comes to finances but actively taking 30 minutes to gauge your current financial state will create a foundation for future planning. The downloadable budget worksheet below categorizes major expenses across groups like mortgage, utilities, gas, loans, and dinning out. By looking at all your expenses in one place you will be able to find ways to adjust and keep your core expenses low.
A great place to start is by investigating your auto loan rate to see if you could save money or pay your car off faster by refinancing your loan. You should also review your credit card rates to see if you’re using the card that makes the most sense for you, and how much you are paying for car insurance if you haven’t done so in the past few years. This is especially true if your financial position has improved and your credit score has increased. You may not even be aware of the multiple ways you can pay off your debts fast by just evaluating the options.
Creating a plan greatly reduces stress. In the end, you don’t need a sophisticated personal finance class or software. Looking at your spending and creating a budget is the first step to financial success in 2019.