Hands up if you experience financialphobia and you’re scared to check your bank account after coming home from a holiday. We get it – when you’re on a trip, it’s easy to order the extra dessert, or an extra round of cocktails, or to splurge on an overpriced souvenir fan for your mum that she’ll never use. You’re out of your usual routine, and the rulebook goes out the window, whether you give yourself a break from your usual fitness plan, or find yourself really getting your money’s worth on that all-inclusive buffet.
Don’t get us wrong – a break full of dopamine-hits is necessary every once in a while. But just as you might come back feeling bloated and achy after a week of non-stop sampling the local cuisine, if you’ve been spending in a less restrained way than usual, chances are you’re in need of a financial detox too.
In this article, we’ll go through your 9 step plan for financially bouncing back after overspending on holiday, along with some tips and tricks from our favourite money experts thrown in.
1. Go easy on yourself
A financial hangover can induce its own special brand of ‘the fear’ and it is important to be compassionate with ourselves as we’re going through the motions. For instance, just like when we have one too many cocktails and spend more than we intended, it can leave us feeling out of control. For most of us, that loss of control leads to heightened feelings of anxiety, fear, and stress. When we’re stuck in those feelings, our inner critic often pipes up and starts berating us, as a kind of subconscious attempt to regain control. If we punish ourselves enough…we’ll stop doing the thing that makes us feel bad…right?
No, of course not. Countless studies show that self-compassion and self-acceptance are far greater tools for changing our behaviour – whether it be financial, emotional, or interpersonal, than punishment. In fact, if we are punishing ourselves, we are actually much more likely to continue overspending as our inner critic starts to run the show and seek out more ‘evidence’ to prove that we need punishment. This, inevitably, leads to a vicious cycle which you have the power to break by changing your financial blueprint.
So, above all else, go easy on yourself. Remind yourself that it is important to let go every once in a while, and overspending is part and parcel of everyone’s financial habits. Your bank account will recover, and you did not make any mistakes by having some fun. That’s what the 50/30/20 budgeting rule teaches us at least!
2. Take stock of your situation
As painful as it might first seem, the first practical step you need to take is to get to grips with the numbers. How much exactly is your debt? Whether it be debt to your mum, your friend, or the bank, you need to take stock of what’s remaining. And if you didn’t use a credit card but did go over your budget, how much of your savings pot do you need to replace?
Just as a cold shower is unpleasant but helps you get over your hangover, a spending health check – no matter how bad the results – will ultimately help you get back to financial health. Go through your bank accounts, tally up your holiday spending, and map it all out on a spreadsheet. Your future self will thank you.
"Tempting as it may be to bury your head, knowledge is power"
3. Make a plan of action
If we experience events like a financial hangover, it can trigger a fear or failure or a fear of judgement from others. These fears, in our modern world at least, can go deeper, and impact our sense of safety. As a result, our brains might interpret these worries as a life-threatening predator standing before us. When this happens, it creates anxiety and catastrophic thinking. They can make highly ill-thought-through decisions feel urgent and without recourse. If prolonged over time, they wear us out and sow the seeds for issues like depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse issues.
To ensure you don’t find yourself stuck in that catastrophic thinking and emotional stress vacuum, make a plan of action. I spoke to Ellie Austin Williams, personal finance expert and author of Money Talks, to get her advice. “If you have debt to repay from your summer spending, put a plan of action in place ASAP. Tempting as it may be to bury your head, knowledge is power and the sooner you know how much you have to repay and set yourself a clear, achievable repayment plan, you can relax knowing that any debt you have is under control. Remember that if you are finding the debt overwhelming, you can always reach out to a charity such as StepChange for support.”
4. Start a side hustle
One of the best ways to ease a financial hangover is to find ways to make some extra money - akin to going for a run post-hangover to try and regain a feeling of physical health. So, if you are struggling, consider this your opportunity to start that side hustle you’ve been thinking about. If you’re a master baker, why not make an Instagram account advertising your services for friends of friends’ birthday cakes?
If you’re a dog or cat lover, you might want to sign up for a site like Rover, and look after the local pets when their owners are away. If you’ve got a wardrobe to rival Carrie Bradshaw’s (another person who’s infamously bad at money management…), why not rent out some of your star pieces on ByRotation? Being in a financially sticky spot is never nice, but you can always try to use this time to get creative coming up with (ethical and legal, obviously) money making schemes.
5. Sell your old stuff
Similarly, now’s the time to do a clear-out of your home, and to sell anything you no longer use. Clothes and books are a great place to start, and there are endless platforms that allow you to easily sell your preloved items. It’s a nice ‘back-to-school’ activity, too: nothing feels better than a newly organised cupboard. Make sure anything you’re selling is in good condition, and list it on a site like Depop or Vinted.
Tip: Put some effort into your product photography, and you’ll get a better deal for your wares. For clothes, make sure they’re washed and ironed, and hang them against a white wall or door. Even better, get a friend to help you out with some DIY modelling to command the best possible price. The same goes for books or homeware you might be selling – tidy it up and do some simple styling.
6. Try a low-spend challenge
“Give resetting your spending a go with a low-spend challenge,” says Ellie. “Whilst no-spend challenges can lead to an unhealthy relationship with money in the long-term, a low-spend challenge can give you space to reset your spending without the level of restriction in no-spend. Set yourself a realistic weekly or daily budget and plan ahead with your shopping and socialising to ensure you stick to it. You can make it fun by getting creative looking for deals or free activities in your area.” Skip the night out for once, and instead have friends over for a pot-luck dinner, a mood boarding evening, or just watching a film together on the couch. Chances are, they’ll also appreciate giving their wallets a break post-summer!
7. Audit your subscriptions
“One of the most simple steps you can take is to spring clean your subscriptions,” recommends Ellie. “Set aside 10 minutes to go through last month’s bank statement and check you know what you’re paying for. It’s so easy to sign up to something and forget to cancel, then realise months later you’ve been paying for a service you don’t use!” This is something that can take you 20 or 30 minutes, and might well lead to you saving $10s or $100s a month.
8. Look at your financial behaviours
Our financial health is one of the most emotionally invested areas of our wellbeing. A classic example of this would be if you grew up in a house where your parents regularly fought about money, you might find yourself struggling to take ownership of your bank account as thinking – let alone talking about money triggers anxiety. If you grew up in a home where your parents were very financially responsible, you might find yourself going on spending ‘binges’ as a means of rebelling against them or you might be the kind of person who is fine spending their money on other people, but find it near impossible to spend it on yourself because of subconscious beliefs about whether or not you ‘deserve it’.
Just like when someone has a substance abuse issue, if you’re worried that your financial hangovers are becoming an all-too-common occurrence, it's useful to try and become aware of your own emotional relationship with money so that you can spot your triggers, so to speak. If you're really struggling, there are also many support groups out there for people who are consistently in debt and cannot understand why they keep finding themselves acting in a manner that hurts them.
9. Learn for next time
What’s done is done, and there’s no point beating yourself up about overspending from time to time. What’s far more important is learning from your mistakes, and putting in place measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s not always possible, but try to plan your trips as far in advance as possible. This will allow you to budget and save over a period of months, so you’re less likely to be tempted to whip out your credit card. In that same train of thought, try to take comfort in the fact that – much like with a hangover, if you know you won’t behave like that again (or even just any time soon) it will bring you comfort and a sense of control.
Kick the post-holiday financial hangover once and for all
So, if you’re struggling with feelings of guilt or anxiety over your holiday spending, take comfort in the fact you’re far from alone and that there are easy steps you can take to regain control. From starting a side hustle or tackling that subscription pile to showing yourself compassion and examining the subconscious beliefs underpinning your financial behaviour, these expert-backed tips will help you get back on track and learn from your slip-ups. And even better? You can keep tabs on your finances in time for next year.
Remember that your financial health is just like your physical health: it’s a daily journey that requires changing your habits, but also learning about investing and personal finance, and doing it consistently. Just as we can regain control over our health by exercising and eating healthily, we can regain control over our finances by adopting a few of these strategies post-holiday splurge.