Is Christmas worth the struggle?

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As the holiday season approaches, many Americans are gearing up to spend massive amounts of money on gifts for their loved ones. All the stress that goes into Christmas leaves some (namely me) wondering if Christmas is actually worth the struggle and the stress.

The first thing most people think of with the struggles of Christmas is the financial strain, which seems to get worse every year. The National Retail Federation found in a study that holiday sales are expected to increase this year from last year between 4.3 and 4.8 percent, with a greater chance for overspending.

A 2015 survey from SunTrust Banks found that 46% of Americans feel like they have to spend more than they can handle financially, which was up from 39% the previous year. Some American families try to set and maintain a budget during the holidays, although many don’t end up achieving their budgets.

Coinstar’s 2017 Holiday Survey found that 65% of Americans set a holiday budget for themselves, with 77% of the 2,000 surveyed saying they still expected to go over-budget anyway. Only 37% of those surveyed said that they have a budget plan to recover from the holidays afterward.

All the financial stress that goes into Christmas detracts from the holiday spirit. The holidays should be about spending time as a family and reflecting on what we are grateful for, not arguing over gift-giving and budgets, as many do. For a lot of families, Christmas becomes more about the gifts and the stress than it is about having a good time.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Many families are finding ways to ease the financial stress during Christmas, and making it more about the experience of Christmas, rather than the materialism.

A popular strategy is drawing names out of a hat and only getting one or two people a gift for Christmas, while some families are choosing not to buy any gifts at all. These are great ideas, and I think that everyone should consider options for lowering their holiday spending this year.