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4 Holiday Tricks: Dealing with Financial Stress & Chronic Back Pain

Published December 19, 2017    

On December 12th, Susan became stressed out. Tis' the season they say — tis' the season to be broke?

Susan, a fellow Backer, lives with nerve pain from arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine and large joints), in addition to degenerative disc disease that has plagued her for the last 10-plus years. She does her best to maintain a positive work ethic, but that aching back gets in the way every time.

“Good morning,” Susan starts. “I am dealing with acute financial stress these days. I am an RN (registered nurse), so I should be able to find work easily right? Not really. Because of my chronic pain, I am limited in the jobs I can do (I know you all know what I mean).”

For example, she's not your typical hospital, 12 hours-on-your-feet type of nurse. She's a per diem home health worker who hasn't been the most reliable after being rear-ended last month. “I have become even more anxious,” she explains. “This leads to poor confidence, which isn't the best for job seeking. It's a vicious cycle.”

Not to mention, Christmas is days away. The thought of shopping literally puts her in a tailspin. Let's just say that decorating the tree wasn't so easy (bending is tough these days), nor was stocking up on the latest gadgets for her two daughters, Sarah and Sammy. It didn't go as planned (and maybe that's all right).

“I am a single mom and the bills are piling up.” Susan offers. “I know there isn't a happy little answer that someone can wrap up and put a bow on for me. I am just freaked out by my age and the state of my bank account.”

Meanwhile, it's been officially one year since her divorce was finalized. It's one thing after another and because it's the holidays, she feels more alone. “It sure helps to have a significant other who makes you feel secure and supported,” Susan recalls. “I miss that. If you have someone in your life who gives you security, go hug your spouse today.”

Can you guys relate? How can we get through the holidays without breaking our pockets or losing our minds while our degenerative disc creeps up all day every day? There is a method to the madness and we're about to figure it out.

So BackerNation took it to the virtual money men (and this defiantly excludes Bernie Madoff, #sorrynotsorry) in search of four holiday tricks that we back pain warriors can handle.


All of the research says the same thing: budget, budget, budget.

Dr. Kurt Smith, clinical director of Guy Stuff Counseling. He's a practicing financial advisor in Roseville, California, who writes as an affiliate author for the Nerd Wallet, an online resource for financial problems or advice. Smith suggests reviewing your earnings against your expenses — make a list if you desire. Then, figure out how much you need to spend on your friends and family for the holidays in addition to other monthly necessities.

Taking it a step further, consider assigning each item a definite dollar amount on that list. "This will help you overcome the temptation to overspend," Smith adds.

Still, the idea of planning isn't the most fun, but we know it's just one of those things. Amitrajeet Batabyal, economics professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology's College of Liberal Arts in Rochester, N.Y., provides his two cents on the matter, "After you set a budget, aim to pay cash for your purchases, shop online to efficiently, find sale prices, and avoid applying for department store credit cards that can put you further into debt."


Are you more of an online shopper or do you need the real thing? Whatever you prefer, always stick to that list. Yes, we said list —again. And, we know we've already given you two homework assignments at this point but they really make all the difference.

Smith interjects, "Sticking to your list will also help keep you from buying unnecessary items and prevent overspending. It’s easy to make impulse purchases with all the eye candy in stores this time of the year, but you won’t fall prey to these consumer tricks when you know what you need."

With your list in hand and proper planning, you're almost there. You're back pain can't stop you now. However, never buy things you know you can't afford.


Oh the joys of charging gifts or placing your order on layaway, but chances are you'll end up doing that overspending thing Smith mentioned. You could overextend yourself, which may make you stress out even more. This will certainly raise cortisol levels in your body making you anxious and exacerbating your back pain. You guys know about that "Keep Calm and Carry On" quote. Well, that fits perfectly right here, so breathe.

T. Rowe Price, an investment management firm published a 2016 report that says, “25 percent of parents have dipped into their emergency savings or 401(k) retirement plan or taken out a payday loan in order to cover holiday expenses.”

Parents, if you simply can't afford to buy the latest fashion trend for your son or daughter without a loan, taking from your savings or opening a store credit card, you must ask yourself two questions, Price suggests.

1. Do they really need it that badly?
2. Can I find something similar without breaking the bank?

Since it's most likely not a matter of life or death, there's always an alternative, a plan B, a discounted option. Did someone say sale? Your child loves you and yes they want nice things but they'll settle for whatever you provide. They take after you, remember? The best part, nice things don't always have to cost a fortune.


Unleash your creativity. Take a walk around your home and see if you can craft anything together. Tis' the season, Backers. Plus even if you’re not the most artistic person, there is something called your time.

"Cooking someone a meal, giving new parents a night out while you babysit, or offering to clean someone’s house are gifts that recipients will love and will cost you nothing," Smith asserts.

Get creative with your gift giving and don't forget to have fun.


After all, what is this season about anyway? Being together. Family — the one you were born into, or the one you create.

Gifts are secondary. Regardless if you get your people diamonds or sand, they just want you near. So never spend the holidays alone. Invite yourself somewhere if you have to. And, don't keep your money problems in. You deal with enough holding yourself up while you battle your back or spine condition so speak up. Relay on the people around you because that's exactly why we are all here — BackerNation included.  

Relaxing, decorating a Christmas tree.

We followed up with Susan to see how everything turned out and great news people. She's been able to work more since adding essential oils into her routine. She's also finished all of her shopping and has a new outlook. There is hope.

“I really wouldn't even believe it if I wasn't living it. I ran into this raw nurse the other shift and I basically broke down,” Susan finishes. “She actually had a brother who deals with the same exact conditions I do. And, he was recommended essential oils as part of a holistic approach, alongside massage therapy and chiropractic care. Since then, I've followed in his footsteps. It was the best move I ever did. Here's to a Happy New Year.”

Last change: February 26, 2018