How to combat your festive financial hangover
Feeling anxious or guilty about the money you've just spent over the festive season? You might be experiencing a financial hangover. Here's how to battle it
image Team Woo
words Dayna McAlpine
'Tis the season for realising that all those presents, all those journeys home for the big day and Christmas nights out have left a bit of a dent in your finances - the mulled wine hangover might not be the only thing you've been suffering from.
Let us set the very familiar scene - you've splashed a bit more cash on presents this year because it's the first time in three years with zero Covid restrictions dampening the festive spirit, you probably shouldn't have bought that round for your entire work team at the pub, maybe it wasn't totally necessary to spend £20 on having those Christmas trees painted on your nails and perhaps you didn't really need a brand new outfit for Christmas Day.
But, alas, we did it anyway and what follows, right now, can be overwhelming feelings of guilt, worry and anxiety as we realise that we maybe went too far. However, unlike our accidental overdoing it on the Baileys, money hangovers can't be cured with two paracetamol and a McDonald's breakfast.
Cashfloat finance expert Sarah Connelly describes the phenomenon of a money hangover as "when someone spends a lot of money on something and then is left feeling regret similar to that of a hangover. This is a feeling you might get when you make a big purchase or financial decision which you can’t justify after."
We can find ourselves getting into a deeper red than Santa's hat due to the sheer expense of the festive season and according to the Bank of England, households will have spent on average £740 more in December than in other months. And if you find yourself feeling remorseful for your festive spending once the halls are undecked and Christmas dinner leftovers are long scoffed, you're certainly not alone. As if January (and, oh god, February!) wasn't miserable enough, there's nothing like a side dose of guilt about how much you spent in December just to really drive the winter gloominess home.
Thanks to the cost of living crisis, this year our money hangovers are even more brutal - with research commissioned by Oxfam and carried out by OnePoll revealing that more than a third of festive shoppers (35%) have tried to spend less on gifts this Christmas, typically cutting their budgets by half.
But why do these money hangovers make us feel so shameful?
According to Dannielle Haig, Principal Business Psychologist at DH Consulting, there's a very valid reason for all the upset. "For many of us, money represents safety and safety is fundamental to us on a primitive level as a basic need. This means that money can be incredibly emotive and cause us to feel emotions more deeply than other domains of our life," she explains.
"When we have overspent or blown the budget, it consequently shakes your sense of financial safety and can cause heightened feelings of shame. This is mainly due to societal projections of 'more money is good; no money is bad' and if you’ve overspent or couldn’t afford something then you feel like you’re not good enough."
Haig says that many of us will experience feelings of anxiety alongside shame due to feeling out of control and as a result, those of us suffering from a money hangover may be worried about being able to afford fundamentals, such as rent, bills and food.
So, how are we meant to stop ourselves from getting a money hangover in the first place?
First things first, it's time to come to terms with the fact that you've overdone it.
"You need to have a look at your financial wellbeing," advises Haig. "Your attitude towards your money and how in control you feel is important - it’s common for people to ignore their financial situation as it can cause difficult emotions and as we’re not generally educated about money management many feel afraid of it."
Once you've accepted the truth - that we've spent a lot of money and not having much left is uncomfortable, it'll be a whole lot easier to take actionable steps.
What steps can I take to relieve my festive money hangover?
According to Adrian Yearwood, Director at Love Savings Group, "one of the main reasons people land themselves in a money hangover is impulse buying."
Let's be real, Christmas shopping is stressful and the closer it gets to the big day, the more we can find ourselves panickedly overspending in a bid to make sure we get all the presents and food and drinks we are told - and tell ourselves - we need.
Heading into the new year, and if you've got time to play with, Yearwood recommends fighting the urge to spend willy-nilly by placing an item in your online basket, waiting a week and seeing if you still really want it. He warns: "Too many times we buy things we don’t need or don’t really want, so avoid buyer's remorse, and be patient when buying. Don’t panic buy! We know the added pressure when it’s the last one in stock, or the sale is about to end. Don’t panic, stay calm and consider your options."
When it comes to spending, don't assume that because an item is on offer that it's the best price - Yearwood is a big fan of hunting out discount codes and using price comparison sites before making any beefy purchases.
"It can also pay to set up a rainy day fund," he adds. "Sometimes, the simple answer is that we’re all human, and we’re all likely to indulge at some stage or another. So to avoid the money hangover, make sure you’re putting something aside each month so you have a cushion to fall back on."
How do I stop spiralling over my money hangover?
"When it comes to getting yourself out of a money hangover it’s important to think carefully and be wise about spending money moving forward," Sarah Connelly advises.
Yup - it's time to utilise the dreaded 'b' word; budgeting. As dull as it sounds, sticking to a budget sooner rather than later can get you out of your current money hangover - and even prevent a future one from occurring. "The best way to do this is to ensure you’re efficiently budgeting to keep track of your outgoings," says Connelly.
"There are many budgeting methods out there, like a money app to help monitor your spending. A money hangover can be a worrying issue regarding your spending habits, so it’s important if you find yourself in this situation to stick to a budget and then you'll feel more secure about your money situation. This way you can avoid future financial hangovers and soothe a current one faster."
And - as unfair as it can feel - it can pay (literally) to make a bit of extra cash to get us out of our money hangovers. According to Connelly, you may be able to find some quick ways to make money back so you don’t feel as guilty about your spending. This could be focusing on side hustling to bring in extra cash, or selling items to replenish your funds. Luckily, there are options out there and so even if you make as little as £50 during a financial hangover, you'll hopefully begin to feel a bit better.
However, if you find yourself impulse spending regularly and frequently dreading the notifications from your bank that helpfully inform you that you've once again gone way over budget, it might be time to speak to a psychologist or therapist for help in understanding why you spend in a self-sabotaging manner.
*The NHS does offer free talking therapies where you can discuss anything including your relationship with spending.
If you are finding yourself unable to pay bills, rent or for food and essentials, Step Change provides financial guidance on where you can find support.
The Samaritans are available 24/7 to listen, whatever you're going through. You can contact them at 116 123*