How I Killed Money Stress (and You Can Too)

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Do you deal with money stress during the holidays? Here's how we don't so we can stay on budget and still hit our financial goals for the year.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.

The only thing crazier than the holiday season itself is the fact that it’s over. The stress can outweigh the joy at times for many. Whether you experienced the frustration of not knowing where money for gifts was going to come from or something more family related, you weren’t alone in the stress you experienced. The holidays may be over, but in my opinion now is the best time to start thinking about how to lower your stress level for the next go-round.

What We Did to Kill Stress This Year


For us, the holidays are all about taking a mental break. This year, that involved a trip to San Diego to visit the in-laws the week before Christmas. The trip was largely paid for by rewards points so it required little out of pocket cash. We also took the week between Christmas and New Year’s off to get extra time with the kids. We work hard all year long and this time away allows us to recharge, but more importantly, gives us precious time with our growing kids.

The holidays aren’t a stressful time for us financially. When we were first married, we’d spend on gifts with no idea how we’d pay the credit card bill in January – which only led to stress. Now, we budget for the holidays throughout the year. Each year we set aside $900 for the holidays by pulling out $75 each month to cover our holiday expenses. This simple budget empowers us to spend with confidence when the time comes.

We handle our finances that way, as a whole, throughout the year so it’s a relatively simple and painless process to manage expenses for the holidays. The confidence that it breeds is well worth the work.

Financial Confidence


I spoke a few months ago about the new onUp movement by SunTrust. The intention behind the movement is one supported by Frugal Rules – not viewing money as a taboo subject and being committed to living a financially confident life.

I speak with people every day about finances and one of the most common themes I hear is a lack of confidence. It ranges from not knowing how to live on a budget, to overspending, to not knowing how to invest – and everything in between. What I share with them I’ll say to you – it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have confidence and become financially stable, but it does require action.

If you don’t know where you stand in terms of your financial confidence, check out the Mental Wealth Quiz from SunTrust. The quiz has ten questions and doesn’t take long to complete. While simple, the questions help you consider how you’d handle short and long-term situations. Your answers reveal your level of financial confidence.

I took the quiz myself and fared pretty well as it encouraged me to see if there might be other solutions to our long-term needs. I encourage you to take the quiz to see where you stand and form an action plan around the results. Don’t let it overwhelm you; even if you only take one area and focus on that it’ll help you build the confidence to move on other areas when you’re ready.

Goals for the Year


With the New Year upon us, there’s no better time than the present to look at your finances. Consider what you want to accomplish this year. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • What goals would I like to accomplish?
  • What obstacles might I face?
  • How can I ensure I’ll do my best?
  • What should I do if I don’t see the progress I want?

You may have other questions, but these should get you started. I use them every year as we look at our financial goals, and did the same for this year. In fact, we used them to come up with these goals:

  • Max out our retirement accounts. This includes both our Roth IRAs and well as our Solo 401(k) plan. This also includes maxing out our HSA to supplement our health insurance costs.
  • Continue to save money for a new to us car. We plan to buy a car in cash and should be able to accomplish it by the end of the year.
  • Continue to put away money in the 529 accounts we have for our children. It’s important for us to continue to build funds for them if they choose to go to college, so this is obviously important to us.

We check our goals quarterly to make sure we stay on track. If we’re not, this allows us time to make changes to help ensure success. Find a timeline that works for you, write down your goals and start taking the steps needed. You can also use the Tools section of the onUp site if you need further help with identifying and accomplishing your financial goals.

I know it may feel overwhelming but please don’t give up or let that feeling lead you to inaction. Take it one day at a time and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the progress you can make throughout the year – not to mention the newfound confidence.

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you.

The onUp movement was created to guide millions of people one step at a time towards a more financially confident life without ever losing sight of the moments that matter along the way.

Join the growing number of people transforming their stress into positive motivation to move onUp.

Join the movement


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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

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