How To Lower Your Financial Stress During The Holiday

The holidays can be stressful for many people. Gift-giving, travel planning, and other expenses can add to existing worries. Now, with the pandemic, widespread joblessness, and minimal government support, the upcoming 2020 holiday season feels even more financially stressful, according to 54% of Americans surveyed by CreditKarma.

Many people — 59% — say they will adjust traditional gift-giving traditions to lower costs and ease financial stress. So, to help you weather the holiday blues, Credit Karma compiled these tips based on its latest survey results.

Why Are People More Stressed This Holiday Season?

Credit Karma found that 34% of Americans feel pessimistic about the upcoming holidays, while 15% feel neutral. 52% of those reporting negative feelings cited financial worries as the leading cause, while 47% felt negative because of the pandemic’s disruption to traditional holiday events and celebrations. 

Although the survey highlighted Americans’ worries this year, it also found that the holidays remain a source of happiness for many, with 50% saying they are hopeful, excited, grateful, or happy about this year’s holidays.

How Will Gift-Giving Change This Year?

The 34% of respondents who reported financial unreadiness for this year’s holidays said gift-giving is their most significant cause of worry — with 50% worried about their ability to afford gifts. Although 30% of those surveyed plan on taking on more debt this season, most anticipate going into debt by purchasing presents for their loved ones and friends.

In light of this, nearly 60% plan on modifying their gift-giving plans this season, with most planning on buying fewer presents. CreditKarma found:


  • 40% are restricting the number of gifts they’re buying for loved ones and friends
  • 36% are putting price limits on presents
  • 34% are only buying gifts for family
  • 18% are not joining their workplace gift exchanges
  • 16% are not purchasing anyone gifts this year


Although numerous respondents decided to cut back on gift-giving, just 28% will tell others not to buy them anything. Not only that, but 24% said they would spend more on gifts and seasonal purchases this year, with 42% citing a desire to treat their loved ones.

Altogether, CreditKarma’s survey shows that many people connect the holidays with gift-giving, but that can cause most of their anxiety. If you want to worry less this season, letting others know not to buy you anything could be an effective way to lower your financial worries.

Will Fewer Presents Mean More Charitable Donations This Year?

The holidays aren’t only a time for gift-giving; it’s also when many people donate to charity or volunteer. CreditKarma’s survey found that 10% of Americans plan on donating or volunteering rather than buying presents. 10% said they would ask others to donate their time or money to a charity rather than purchase gifts for them.

The survey also found that 14% of Gen Z and 13% of millennials plan on volunteering over gift-giving, while 9% of Gen X and Baby Boomers intend to do so. Older generations may be less likely to volunteer their time and money because they have children, grandkids, and other relatives to purchase gifts for. Or, it may be generational attitudes about exchanging gifts.

Credit Karma’s Tips For Lowering Your Stress This Season

Plan Your Budget Now

The first step is developing a budget so that you have a better idea of your finances. Try not to accrue debt if you can help it, but if it’s unavoidable, seek a low-cost way to fund your holiday purchases, such as borrowing money from a family member or a personal loan rather than a credit card.

Establish Expectations

Don’t be afraid to approach your family and friends ahead of time to talk about gift-giving and spending this year. Many people feel the same as you but are unsure of how to discuss this challenging topic. 

Consider setting up a White Elephant or Secret Santa gift exchange to avoid having to buy something for everyone. You could also exchange ideas for affordable activities to do together instead. There are many ways to enjoy the holidays without having to buy gifts.

Offer Your Time And Service

During this time, you could consider volunteering instead of purchasing presents. Enlist your loved ones to volunteer for an afternoon at your local food bank or animal shelter. It’s a great way to bond and a meaningful way to spend your time together.


  • Lapera, Gaby. “54% Of Americans Feel More Financially Stressed by the 2020 Holidays than Last Year, Survey Finds.” Error | Credit Karma, 22 Oct. 2020,