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MADISON, Wis. - With family gatherings, shopping and holiday parties, this can be a very joyful season. But the holidays often include a lot of stress, which can put a damper on the joyful parts.
Some of the stress is unnecessarily self-inflicted, says Christine Whelan, a clinical professor in the Department of Consumer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology.
For instance, finances can be a source of holiday angst. Whelan says the old saying that 'money can't buy happiness' isn't always so. "I teach that you can buy happiness - if you know how to spend your money right," Whelan states. "So, I encourage everyone during the holiday season to not spend so much money on things, but to invest in experiences and relationships." By that, she means investing in travel, concerts, plays and other events that can lead to memorable moments and stories.
She also suggests spending money on services that can free up time to do other things and have fun experiences as a way to beat holiday stress. Holiday shopping can be a nightmare of crowds and frustrating searches for the best buy on a particular item. But Whelan says it doesn't have to be that way. "If you go with a group of friends to go shopping, make it much more about the experience of getting out there with loved ones and having a blast, rather than the sort of white-knuckled tension about whether you are going to get one particular product," she advises.
Whelan also suggests a new habit for the New Year - a monthly money date to talk about finances with your significant other. She says tension about spending and saving often lingers long after the holidays. "Fights about money usually tend not to be fights about the dollars and cents," she states. "What they're fights about is about values, and fights about equality within the relationship. "So, do I get to spend money on my interests? Are you getting to spend money on yours?" Whelan says people who have children should find ways to bring them into the conversations about money as well, so they can learn about money management.