Financial Wellness in the Holiday Season

money-savings-for-holidays

Image courtesy of Your Jewish Speech

Now that the Halloween decorations have come down and holiday songs have started to be played on the radio, it won’t be long until the holiday season begins. Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, November and December can be rough on budgets, especially for college students. Between travel expenses, winter break plans, going out with friends to celebrate the end of the semester, and buying gifts, we often quickly spend much more money than we may have planned. Americans spend more during winter holidays than any other time of the year, including back-to-school shopping, and sales during winter holidays make up about 20% of all retail throughout the year!

It’s especially important during this time of the year to remember to prioritize financial wellness, which involves setting and achieving both long and short-term personal financial goals. Everyone’s financial status and goals are different, depending on income, wealth, spending, debt, values, etc., and are situated within our society’s financial and economic context. Before rushing into the holiday season, take some time to think about your own finances. How much do you have to spend? How much do you need to save? What are the most important things for you to spend money on or save money for?

Here are some ideas to keep your budget happy this season!

  1. Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to what you are doing, noticing your thoughts, sensations, and the world around you without judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can actually help you make better decisions.
  2. Set a budget. What’s important to you? What are you going to need/want money for? Decide what you are able to afford based on your priorities and values, and then stick to it. Check out this list of apps for budgeting tools.
  3. Make a list and check it twice. This will help you stay focused on what you need and avoid purchasing on impulse. Check out these strategies to avoid impulse purchases!
  4. Try DIY gifts! Homemade gifts are wonderful both for your budget and for adding that personal touch to let your family and friends know how much you care. Need some inspiration? Here are 50 of the best DIY gift ideas.
  5. Give of your time. Some of the best gifts are things you can do for or with another person. For those of us that are craft-challenged, here are some great alternatives.
  6. Host a potluck. If you want to get together with friends, consider having a potluck instead of going out for an expensive meal. This way, you don’t have to get everyone to agree on a restaurant, and you’ll spend a lot less. Maybe try out a pizza potluck – everyone brings their favorite ingredient to share (just make sure someone brings the crust!). Instead of spending $20+ on a meal at a restaurant, you’ll spend less than $5 on your topping—plus, it’s a lot more fun!
  7. Be careful with credit card purchases.Having a credit card can be great for building credit, but it’s especially important during this time of the year to make sure we’re able to pay off the card on time at the end of the month. It’s also a time of year when our schedules are different than normal, so be sure to set a reminder for when you need to pay your bills. If you struggle with spending too much when you use a credit card, try only taking cash when you go shopping.

The end of the semester can be stressful with exams and final papers, and worrying about money can just make everything more complicated. Do yourself a favor and lessen some of the stress by prioritizing your financial wellness!

 

Kaitlyn Brodar is the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiativse at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.

Healthy Heels Weekend: Happy Leprechauns Edition

This weekend, we’re all Irish Heels!  Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, and there are lots of fun things happening in the Triangle.  All of our suggestions below are alcohol-free options.  But if you’re over 21 and plan to have an adult beverage or two, eat a good meal first, pace yourself to one alcoholic drink per hour, and alternate with water.  Have a fun night, and wake up feeling great on Sunday morning!

Chapel Hill

Zeta Tau Alpha Franklin 5K
Bynum Circle, UNC Campus
9:30 am

Irish Musicians and Dancing at Kildare’s
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

St. Patrick Meets Mozart at United Church of Chapel Hill
7:30 pm

Magnolia Collective at Southern Rail
9:00 pm

Bowerbirds and Mandolin Orange at Cat’s Cradle
9:30 pm

Raleigh

St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Downtown Raleigh
12:00 noon

Wearin’ O’ the Green Festival at Moore Square
10:00 am – 9:00 pm

Stones in His Pockets at Theatre in the Park
7:30pm

Durham

Irish Cooking Class at Durham Spirits Company
11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Irish Cover Band Party at Casbah
9:00 pm

Stay Active, in the Warmth of the Indoors!

I hate being cold. I also hate that when it’s cold outside, I don’t exercise as much.

So, I’ve found ways to exercise in the warmth of home, without exercise equipment. Here are some ideas I’d like to share. You can make a full cardio workout out of these by combining activities and exercising at moderate intensity for 45-60 minutes.

  1. Jumping Jacks: This classic exercise from your kindergarten class never grows old, and will definitely get your heart pumping.
  2. Jump Rope: Find your little brother or sister’s jump rope and see how fast you can do it. See if you can crisscross or double hop. Or, set a timer and jump for 10 minutes straight. Make sure to wear good shoes to protect your feet and legs.
  3. Burpees (or Squat Thrusts): These are classic whole-body exercises which involve quickly lowering into the push up position, pulling the feet in and then jumping up with arms raised. You can see an example here. These are pretty challenging, so do them at a pace that works for you.
  4. Mountain climbers: In the push up position with chest directly above hands, arms shoulder width apart, and back flat, run with your feet as if climbing a mountain. You can see an example here.
  5. Steps: Exercise up and down the stairs in your house by stepping up with one foot, then bringing the other up onto the same step. You may want to use just a few of the steps. Repeat leading with the other leg.
  6. Wii or Kinect games: Many of these video games involve active participation. Kinect Adventures has a great obstacle course game that really gets your heart pumping, or you can try some of the sports games on the Wii.
  7. Dancing: Dancing is a great way to exercise. You can go out with friends for a night on the town, or slip in Dance Central or Just Dance on the Wii or Kinect.

Physical activity will not only help you maintain a healthy weight during this season, it will also give you extra energy and relieve stress as your holiday to-do list grows. Don’t let the cold, ice or snow stop you from staying active. Give these in-home cardio exercises a try!

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

Michael Nagle / Getty Images file
Shopping for holiday gifts for your friends and family can be expensive and time-consuming. It requires some thoughtfulness and planning to find the right gift for the right person at the right price range for you. Healthy gifts are well-received during the holidays because people feel guilty about overeating and start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Consider some of these ideas for the people you know that appreciate novel, practical gifts. As always, be tactful when sending health-related gifts so you’re not sending the message that “I think you’re NOT healthy and could benefit from this…”

Farmers’ Markets and Whole Foods Gift Cards
Instead of gift cards to retail outlets for electronics and clothing, consider the Farmers Market and Whole Foods, where you can get fresh, local produce and healthy prepared food. Unfortunately, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market no longer sells Truck Bucks but check your local farmers’ markets.

Healthy Cookbooks
For people that are beginning to learn how to cook, find cookbooks with recipes that require simple ingredients and instruction that are easy to follow. People that aren’t used to cooking all the time often do not have fresh ingredients so they may find it useful to have recipes for ingredients that keep well and don’t need to be prepared right away. You can also cook with the recipient once or twice using the cookbook to encourage the person to use the cookbook and build their cooking confidence.

Massage / Spa Treatment
For the special ladies in your life and also the dudes that enjoy the finer things in life, treat them to a massage or day at the spa. Groupon and Living Social often have discounted massage packages for $40 or less. If that’s too expensive, get some scented massage oils, watch a Youtube video, and do it yourself.

Water Purifer / Water Bottle
To encourage friends to stay hydrated with water instead of sugary soft drinks, give them handheld water purifiers with some spare filters. Although choosing a water bottle can be a personal decision for some people, a classic Nalgene or stainless steel bottle are always appreciated. Check out Laura’s blog post Hydration Station for more info.

Electronic Toothbrush
I’ve only met one kind of electronic toothbrush owner – the kind that swears by them and will try to convince you to buy one if you ever ask about it. Literature reviews show that electronic toothbrushes reduce more plaque, gingivitis, and stains than manual brushing. Spend a little more and get a rechargeable toothbrush that will last for years.

Socks
For their feet.

Happy Halloween!

In Park Elementary School, Halloween was the best.  Mrs. DiGiovani was a pioneering music teacher and encouraged physical activity all the time in music class.  Mrs. D, as we called her since DiGiovani was a little too much to tackle in 1st grade, would have us act out Danse Macabre every Halloween.  We would start lying on the floor, rise up at the appropriate moment and dance like skeletons for 6 and a half minutes (did time go faster as a kid?), and then go back to “sleep” when the sun came back up.

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