5 Ways to Prevent the Winter Blues from Busting Your Budget


Do you start feeling a bit funky once the cold weather hits? For some, seasonal change can trigger depression called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. With SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and can continue throughout the winter months. You might feel more tired or moody than usual. You may gain weight, oversleep, or have a heavy feeling in your arms and legs.

Though doctors don't know exactly what causes SAD, it might have something to do with a decrease in sunlight. Less sun can affect anything from your circadian rhythm to your serotonin and melatonin levels. The result? You don't feel yourself. And you may not maintain your usual habits in other areas of your life, like spending.

Here's how to keep SAD from sabotaging your budget this winter — as well as some things you can do to help yourself get out of a funk on the cheap. (See also: 13 Creative Ways to Stop Spending Money)

1. Unlink Payment Methods

While you might not randomly head out to the store at midnight, online shops are always open. You may have even linked your credit cards or PayPal account to your favorite store. Consider unlinking your payment methods so you'll need to pause for a moment before pushing the buy button. In the time it takes you to find your wallet, you may have second thoughts about your purchase.

2. Practice Self-Care

Instead of rushing to retail therapy to soothe yourself, consider spending time versus money. Practice self-care by doing things to ease your sadness. Take a warm bath, go for a walk, or visit YouTube to find a new yoga video. If you're having trouble thinking of what might make you feel better, try drafting up a list you can consult when you're feeling low. (See also: 7 Online Workout Stations for Free or Cheap)

3. Enjoy Free Stuff

You may also want to make a list of all the free and fun things going on in your area. Being around people is important for people who have SAD, and it can help boost your mood. Check local calendars for events that look interesting to you. Instead of buying new books or music, check them out from your library.

And when you want to spend, try consulting with the Calendar of Annual Free Stuff before heading out. There are many events throughout the year where you can score free food and more, allowing you to indulge without the financial guilt.

4. Cook Ahead

If you find you're spending tons of money on takeout or restaurant meals, plan ahead. You can make meals without much effort by using a Crock-Pot. Here are 25 easy recipes to get you started. And if you're really stuck on what you should consume, here's a frugal meal plan for every single day this month. Eating a healthy diet may even help with your SAD symptoms. (See also: How to Eat on $20 a Week (With Meal Plans))

5. Reach Out

In the study on sadness and shopping, the researchers did discover an important link. The people who were sad were also more self-focused, which ultimately led to more spending. Thinking of others may help break the cycle. Instead of driving yourself to the mall when you're feeling down, you might call a friend to chat or meet up.

Easy Ways to Combat SAD

There are some things you can do at home to help ease your SAD symptoms. Of course, if you have concerns about your mood or health, it's always a good idea to make an appointment with your primary care physician.

Open Your Curtains

No, really. Do anything and everything you can to get more sunlight into your life. This may mean that you'll want to contact a landscaper to trim branches or bushes that are blocking light from getting into your home. Consider moving furniture, like your desk or reading chair, next to windows in your home or office.

Venture Outdoors

The weather may be frightful, but a quick walk around the block might make your day a bit more delightful. Getting in as much sun as possible can help lift your spirits. You'll be able to catch some rays even on cloudy days. Try to get outside within two hours of waking for the best results.

Exercise Daily

Moving your body is good no matter what, but for people with SAD, it's particularly important. Working out relieves stress and anxiety. These things can exacerbate SAD symptoms. Bonus points if you can exercise in the sunlight while getting in some fresh air.

Spend Money

On the right stuff, that is. There are a few products that can help with SAD. Look into buying a portable light box that is made to emulate the sun. A light box works by stimulating all your eye's photoreceptors. Some people even choose to take certain supplements to ease their symptoms, including St. John's wort, SAMe, melatonin, and omega-3 fatty acids. Always consult with your doctor before starting any supplements.

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Guest's picture

I have mild to moderate depression and find that winter is the hardest season for me. I walk for exercise and find that even though its harder to get out in the winter (I live in Maine), I feel better once I get out and do something. I also like to cook and listen to music. I save Netflix and reading for later in the day to relax.