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How to Shake 'Holiday Gift' Anxiety

Experts share tips for avoiding anxiety during the holiday gift-giving season.

The Art of Giving continued...

You guessed it ... stick to a budget. When it comes to making it through the holidays with your head above water, the first thing you should do is plan ahead. Start socking away money in January for the upcoming season. Next, pick a number that doesn't make you cringe, and use it as a budget. Create an account specifically for the holidays, put a set amount in it, and when it's empty, you're done. And remember that a good gift doesn't have to cost a lot.

"As for gift giving, something thoughtful is always welcome and does not have to be expensive," says Radack. "Finances have a huge impact on stress because there are so many expectations when it comes to presents, whether it's at work or with family or friends. It definitely adds to the stress of the holidays, and even after, if people spend beyond their means."

Ask! Instead of just buying willy-nilly, here's a novel idea: Ask your friends and family what they want. You might be surprised.

"Have a frank discussion about gift giving with the people on your list," says Jo Robinson, co-author of Unplug the Christmas Machine. "You want to do more than go through the mechanisms of Christmas. You want to bring people closer together, delight young children, create a beautiful home environment, choose exquisitely appropriate gifts, and on and on."

The Creative Approach

Be creative. Remember that a gift doesn't always need to wrapped, and the gift of time is cherished.

"Spending hours in holiday traffic buying gifts for people who don't need them is an exercise in frustration," Robinson tells WebMD. "Perhaps some people would prefer to spend more time together rather than exchange wrapped gifts. Others might prefer a donation to charity or simply a Christmas card or phone call. Find some way to show love for family and friends beyond gift-giving. Saying appreciative words, being more warm and accepting, helping out, or overlooking faults can spread holiday cheer better than the most elaborate table setting, festive drink, or gift."

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