Holiday Spending Hangover


Spending hangover

Since getting back to the office last week, I have heard a lot of talk of people committing to a “dry January”.  Many of us overindulged over the holidays and we are waking up with an alcohol and dessert hangover.  Some of us are waking up with a spending hangover as well.

As the start of the New Year, new beginnings are very motivating.  Especially if we overindulged during December.  And it’s easy to have gone over budget; the extra dinners out with friends and colleagues, the extra stocking stuffers that are just so cute; the perfect find for another friend who happens to be coming into town to see family, express shipping for that last minute gift.  We have all done it, but we also know that these things, while insignificant on its own really do add up.

Here’s How to Recover:

Stop Beating Yourself Up

We beat ourselves up because we see overspending as a character defect; we are lacking in willpower. We beat ourselves up because by punishing ourselves, we think we are not going to do it again.  But no one has ever truly embraced change through shame.

Instead, I choose to recognize that it’s coming from a good place.  I want to be generous with my family and friends.  I want quality time with people I might not get to see in the hustle & bustle of the daily routine.

Recognizing what it is that I had used the money for; now I can find a way to accomplish those while staying in budget for next year.

Practice Saying “No” Now

January is actually the perfect time to say no to invitations out. If a coworker invites you to lunch or drinks after work, you can breezily say no, you are getting back on track health and money wise after the holidays.  Everyone can relate.  They’ll be less likely to coerce you with the “Oh come on, just one drink” because everyone around you is probably saying the same thing!

Cost of Living Adjustments

Some of us are lucky in that we might have gotten a small cost of living adjustment or base salary adjustment from our employers. If this is you, congrats!  This is a great time to sock that extra away.  Most adjustments are around 1-4% to keep up with inflation, after taxes, it could be just $20 per pay.

Twenty dollars is easy to spend.  But if you set an automatic transfer to savings with that amount, it’ll be an extra $520 at the end of the year.   You won’t miss that from your paycheck because you’re used to a current number appearing in your bank account every 2 weeks.

I’m not going to pretend that’s a life-changing amount. I’m not going to calculate how this amount invested equals thousands of dollars in your retirement account and not doing so is adding a whole day to your retirement plan.

But this is the perfect amount to –

Start a Holiday Bank Account

Open a new savings account at your financial institution and name it Holiday Money. It shouldn’t be a general savings account and it should have a specific name.  Our brains don’t handle abstract figures that well, so the name is a reminder of what the money is actually for and you’ll be less likely to use it on car repairs (that’s what an emergency fund is for).

With the transfer of your above increase in earnings, you can effortlessly and painlessly save for the expenses at the end of the year.  This money allows you to continue being generous on gifts without that pang of guilt.  It allows you to call up friends to invite them to dinner to celebrate the holidays.

Focus On the Positives

This is not specifically a gratitude exercise, but it sure can’t hurt. Again, science has shown that our brains work in funny ways. Depending on how something is framed with words, it can influence if we achieve our goal or not.

So if I say things like “I’m not going to spend any money in January”, my brain actually only truly processes the action words.  In this case, it heard “spend any money”.

You know that weird phenomenon when you say you’re not going to spend anything and everything you’ve ever wanted goes on sale or every expense comes due?  It’s like that. Your brain is particularly attuned to a stimulus.

Another example is if you decide to buy a specific model of car, you begin to see it everywhere.  It’s not that there is actually more of that model car on the road; you just never noticed them until now.

Instead of a “no spend” I reframe that idea into an “empty freezer challenge” or “creative stretching” in supplies.

Back to the gratitude – I’ve tried the one line a day of gratitude and it doesn’t work for me.  However, what did work for me was every time I was tempted to buy something, I’d list out items in my home that were essentially the same thing with different packaging.  Face creams, make up palettes, black sweaters are my vices apparently.

Curate Your Surroundings

Speaking of attention now is a good time to unsubscribe to store email newsletters, unfollow stores on Insta and FB. Don’t worry about FOMO – if you miss out, surely another deal will come along.

Also, trust me, you will not forget all about your favourite stores.  Even without being prompted and tempted every time you want mindless scrolling, you’ll still be to recall the social media handle of your favourite store.

This is the same vein as you are the average of the 5 friends you hang out with most.  That is because those friends are exerting an invisible influence on you and your behaviour.  Social media is the same.

But this is easy to hack – instead of following ‘lifestyle influencers’;  follow inspiring role models like Michelle Obama and Roxane Gay.  Substitute retail profiles with creative ones – profiles on creative projects you might want to focus more time and attention to.


We can’t get a redo on our December budget, but there’s also nothing productive on beating ourselves up.  Instead, focus on small positive steps we can take now to make sure we are set up for a great 2019 holiday season.  Practice saying no to a couple of events and coordinate cheaper alternatives. Sock away a bit of money either from a raise or from another part of your budget that has wiggle room.  Starting today, whenever you get an email from a store, unsubscribe instead of deleting it.

Momentum is a marvellous thing.  Once you’ve started on the above, it’s easy to keep going.  So keep going!


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