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Holidays, Money and Stress

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The holidays are upon us once again, and with the season of giving in full swing, it's likely that presents are at the top of your priority list. For many people in Salt Lake City, this joyful time of year turns out to be a stressful headache, and it's largely due to a lack of financial stability. In fact, a survey by the American Psychological Association found that 73% of participants cited money as a significant source of stress in their lives. Today, I will provide some ways to relieve that financial burden and keep your stress level in check.

Let’s face it, money is closely interconnected to your day-to-day life. When you find yourself having to decide on what to cut back on, it can send your stress levels soaring. It's important not to underestimate the effects that stress can have on your well-being. The study mentioned above went on to show that, people with higher levels of stress were more susceptible to suffer from "a range of stress-related illnesses including ulcers, migraines, back pain, anxiety, depression, and heart attacks." Not exactly the gift you would ask Santa for.

In addition, financial stress is one of the worst types of stresses because it attacks virtually every area of your life. Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University says that it "basically invades your home, your work, what you're able to provide for your family, and your fantasies for the future," which can lead to a downward spiral and depression.

When you have an immediate need for cash however, you might find yourself seeking solutions such as applying for a payday loan or using your credit card. The problem with these options is that you end up owing much more than you originally planned to spend, which can perpetuate your financial situation and cause added stress.

Payday loans are marketed as two-week, short-term loans meant for unexpected expenses. They don't require a credit check, so most people that are in a financial bind, find these loans to be an easy way to get out of debt. However, behind the gimmick, these loans are a dangerous option. The APR of payday loans can reach ridiculous amounts. This chart shows that they can vary from 36% to 700%. The actual nationwide average is 400%.

Payday loan lenders also charge a fee, between $15 - $30 dollars, per $100 dollars borrowed. These costs can add up quickly, and according to a study by Pew Charitable Trust, it takes an average of 5 months for a person to pay back their loan in full.

Christine Cadena writes in "Payday Loans Could Cause Tension Headaches." “If you have taken out a payday loan, you may notice that your physical health is more distressed… due to… the realization that a payday loan only temporarily corrects a financial problem." She goes on to say that the pain that occurs along the neck and base is refereed to as a tension headache.

Credit card usage can be just as bad as a payday loan. The interest rate on credit cards has increased significantly over the years. But what makes these cards dangerous is that most people use them without a second thought. However, the lack of awareness in spending can add up quickly. And every month that you don't make a full payment on your account, you'll have to pay interest on your debt.

According to a study conducted by Northwestern University, "poor mental health days were associated with having credit card debt… and higher perceived stress and depression, poorer self-reported general health and higher diastolic blood pressure."

Buying gifts for loved ones is inevitable this time of year, however, financial stress doesn't have to take over your life. Although there will always be some level of stress due to unforeseen circumstances, you can take steps to better prepare for some of it.

There are loans that can relieve the immediate problem, but in the long-term, it's smart to create a savings and contribute to it over time. That way, when next year's holiday season comes around, you'll be able to join in the fun.

Take a step back, take a deep breath and consider your health before making major purchases. Also, remember to take good care of yourself all year long. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the season and get out and enjoy time with friends and family. Get out and enjoy "The Greatest Snow on Earth" by taking the kids sledding at Sugarhouse Park. Enjoy a fun filled day of skiing in Park City or at Snowbird. If you are looking for something a bit more quiet, yet just as enjoyable, consider taking a trip downtown to see the lights of Salt Lake City and enjoy a walk through the LDS Temple.

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