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Holiday Hell

Is there an increase in financial abuse during the holiday season?

Holiday Hell – I want to pose this question to all of you.  Along with the following two additional questions: 

  • What is your personal experience?  
  • Are the holidays a time of year that, whatever your situation, things get worse?

When I did a Google search, there were no specific answers.  Yep, I stumped Google.  Well, kind of.  I found several articles addressing domestic violence during the holidays, and financial abuse is one form of domestic violence.  However, the answer seemed inconclusive.

Some articles indicated that there is actually a decrease in calls to domestic violence hotlines during this time of year. Though they also indicate this may be because of lack of reporting, not because of a decrease in actual abuse.  They theorize that people may be less inclined to report if the abuser is around more. This is frequently the case during the holiday season.

There were other articles theorizing (without substantiating) that there is an increase in domestic violence during the holidays.

Certainly, there is reason to believe that the situation primes the scenario for potential abuse.

Since the holidays are a time of increased spending, there’s no reason to suppose that financial abuse would decrease.  Whether the other forms of abuse increase or not is relevant because of the connection between them and financial abuse.  

However, if we’re looking specifically at financial abuse, I would hypothesize that there would be an increase during the holidays.

Holiday Hell
Holiday Hell
If a partner is perpetrating financial abuse, then the added financial strain of extra spending could cause an increase in the behavior.

It seems to me it’s a pretty simple math problem: one plus one equals two.  If someone is a financial abuser, and there is additional financial pressure, then there will be additional abuse.

The holidays are already a stressful time in many ways, particularly financially. So why wouldn’t the extra stress bring out the worst in someone?

If a financial abuser is the type who overspends to make himself feel “better than,” one way of stroking his ego would be to be the “super spender,” buying extravagant gifts that are beyond his means with no regard to the ramification for the budget.  Perhaps even running up debt that will cause additional strain on the partnership.

Or, if he’s a penny pincher, then he’ll play Scrooge, shutting down any potential enjoyment that might be eked from a tight budget. He might make his partner feel guilty or ashamed if she tries to impart a bit of holiday spirit.  This might include shaming her in front of her family if he restricts money in a way that makes others uncomfortable.  Perhaps he refuses to participate in the family gift exchange. Or he may not contribute to the family meal but expects others to pay for it all.

Financial abuse is such an insidious beast.

There are so many ways it can be hidden from the outside world. But it can create an extreme amount of stress on the victim who presents a happy face. Even when her world is being crushed.

If you have found in the past that the holidays are a particularly vulnerable time of year for your abuser to increase his atrocities, then do whatever you can to plan ahead and lay out a strategy to protect yourself.  Perhaps you can save a little on the side, allowing enough to buy small gifts for the kids.  Maybe you can stock up on extra food so that you can prepare a special meal without having to ask for additional funds.  If he is at all amenable, have a conversation in advance about not overspending. Or set a budget that you both agree to adhere to.

Unfortunately, it is a challenging time of year under the best of circumstances.  If you are in an abusive relationship, I encourage you to anticipate the potential issues. Do your best to mitigate them in advance.  If nothing else, be sure to find the support you need to endure the situation.  

Please join our conversation on Facebook at Women Surviving Financial Abuse.  I’d love to hear from you and the group is very supportive and will welcome you.

Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at Join our FB group

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