The holiday season is a wonderful time to enjoy special experiences and give gifts, but it can also be a time when you struggle with financial guilt. For many people, the holiday season brings on lots of strong feelings about money. 

You may feel stressed about not having enough money to spend on gifts. Or you might feel guilty or ashamed that you do have the financial resources to buy expensive gifts. Whatever your underlying feelings are about money, they’ll probably come to the surface during the holidays.

As we approach the holiday season, we want to help you overcome those negative feelings. We know how frustrating it can be to have your holiday shrouded in financial guilt or shame. But it is possible to overcome these feelings and enjoy a holiday season full of peace and happiness.

Where does money shame come from?

Money is a complicated topic that’s often associated with intense feelings of anxiety, stress, guilt, shame, or worry. It’s one of the most common things couples argue about. But it’s also something that’s a big part of everyday life, so figuring out how to view, save, spend, and talk about money is essential.

Chances are your thoughts and feelings about money are based on your childhood experiences, your parents’ financial management, and your own monetary successes and challenges. If you have a spouse or partner, they’re bringing their experiences and feelings about money into your relationship, so the outcome can be even more complicated. 

You may feel money shame because you’ve made poor financial decisions in the past or because you were raised to view debt as a sign of failure. Or you might be very successful financially and feel guilt about your success. 

During the holidays, these feelings will probably crop up a lot: when you’re shopping for gifts, deciding how or where to celebrate, or trying to manage your partner’s, children’s, or extended family’s expectations. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to overcome those unpleasant feelings.

How do you spend without guilt?

So how do you enjoy the holidays without constantly worrying about money? Start by examining your own expectations. Your life experiences and beliefs can shape how you feel about this time of year and all its trappings and traditions. Developing healthy and realistic expectations for yourself is a great first step.

The next step is to stop comparing your financial decisions and holiday spending to others. You and your family are unique, and your holiday doesn’t need to look like your parents’, in-laws’, friends’, or neighbors’. You also aren’t required to follow financial tips from celebrities or financial “gurus” — the overly generic advice from these sources probably won’t apply to your situation.

Finally, spend your money in whatever way is meaningful to you. There is no one right way to give gifts or make purchases during the holidays. The key is to figure out what values you and your partner hold and use them to guide your spending decisions. 

Maybe it’s important to you to take your family on a memorable trip or donate money or items to a local charity. Or maybe you want to simplify your celebration and protect your budget by encouraging handmade gifts. When you spend according to your personal values, it’s easier to ignore those nagging feelings of guilt and shame.

Don’t forget about the non-financial aspects of the holidays

Another thing to remember during the holidays is that everything doesn’t have to be about money. You may choose to focus on the spiritual or religious aspects of whatever holiday you celebrate. Or you might just allow yourself to enjoy the celebratory atmosphere, meaningful traditions, and beautiful decorations that accompany the season.

The holidays offer plenty of chances to experience positive emotions.  Enjoy the chance to just be with your loved ones. Watch your children experience the magic of lights, decorations, and presents. Appreciate your ability to show your love with a gift, whether it’s a physical item, an experience, or simply uninterrupted time spent in one another’s company. 

Commit to having a guilt-free holiday season

If you experience guilt, stress, or anxiety about money during the holidays, you’re not alone. This is a common issue that many people deal with. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to break free from guilt and enjoy the season fully.

Once you understand the sources of your money shame and financial expectations, you can work through them to develop a healthier mindset. Aligning your spending with your values can also help reduce guilt. And focusing more on the intangible aspects of celebrating with your family and friends can also help reduce those negative feelings.

Another way to minimize financial guilt during the holidays is to work with your partner to plan ahead. With a comprehensive budget, you can save for the holidays throughout the year and then enjoy buying gifts with the money you’ve socked away. Use our free resources to start the conversation with your partner, and then make a money management plan with our innovative BudgetingBlocks™ system.