In every mall and on every radio station, songs tirelessly remind us that the holiday season is the happiest time of the year. But for many, the holidays bring added stress.   There’s no question that the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s challenge us with obligations and expenses. Having lots of gifts to buy and needing to spend days with in-laws is stressful enough. An added struggle to make ends meet is a burden that can turn even the most festive time in a nightmare.

Are there ways to avoid the financial hangover? Well, the answer is simple: either spend less or earn more. But how? In this first of the two-part series we are offering some tips on how to reign your spending – without ruining the holiday spirit. In the second part (coming next week), we will talk about creative ways to generate some badly needed extra income.

So, here are the seven tips to keep your spending in check

Cash is king. To the extent possible, avoid using credit cards. Studies have shown that people are a lot more frugal when they pay cash. Set an amount of cash you are prepared to spend in the box and resist temptation to use plastic!

Sleep on it. Establish a rule that when you are thinking about an expensive purchase (say, over $100-200), you will never make the purchase outright. Come home, relax, watch TV, and go about your business as usual. Next day, if you’re still confident in your decision, go ahead and buy (keep the receipt, though). You will be surprised how much money you will save!

Stop keeping up with the Joneses. Your friends may be raving about their new 60” Ultra-HD TV, but it doesn’t mean that you must splurge on a 65” unit (particularly, if your own 55” TV is just 2 years old). Being competitive is natural, but competing by buying things is hardly smart. Rather than keeping up with the Joneses, outsmart them by buying only what you really need!

Substitute thoughtfulness for cash. Are you buying an expensive gift for your close friend or relative? Showing your love and caring is, indeed, very important. Yet, could you show affection without spending that much? Is there a way to make the gift a little less expensive, but a lot more thoughtful, more personal? Your friend will remember it much longer than a “stock” item, however expensive it might be!

Do not commit yourself to future purchases. Some offers look simply irresistible. Receive 12 bottles of vintage wine at your doorsteps every month (only $19.98 for the first three months), subscribe to a premium cable channel (first month free), or join a health club (first class free). Just provide your credit card, so that “future charges will be conveniently charged to it to avoid interruption. You can cancel at any time”. Well, you now the story… Just avoid!

Never buy for buying sake. There are many reasons for spending money, and many of the reasons make sense. But buying for the sake of the buying process itself, buying as a pastime does not. If you are looking for entertainment, there are many venues less onerous for your wallet than high-end boutiques!

Make sure you are not affected by Bi-Polar Disorder. This is serious. Almost 6 million of adult Americans are affected and many don’t realize that they are. Bipolar is, perhaps, the most mysterious of mental disorders. During a high (a.k.a., manic) episode a person feels invincible. He/she can sleep two hours a day and feel great. He/she can engage in reckless sex or impulsively quit a job. And he/she can spend huge amounts of money. We, in fact, have seen patients who had charged tens of thousands of dollars on credit cards in a matter of days. But then a low (depressive) episode hits and the same person might be too tired to get out of bed and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt. These are, of course, extreme cases, but make no mistake – bipolar is an illness and requires medical treatment. If you have reasons to suspect that you might be among those affected (in glorious company with Robin Williams, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Ben Stiller), make sure to talk with your doctor before hitting the malls.

To learn more about  Boston Clinical Trials and the studies we conduct, please click here.