Contactless payments surge 44% during COVID-19 as shoppers fear germs

Credit card giant Mastercard reported a major shift in consumer behaviour that has seen 44% of Aussies decrease their use of cash when making purchases in-person since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as shoppers fear germs on cash.

The research found that more than half (52%) of Aussies are more aware of the dirtiness of cash as a result of COVID-19, while one in five (21%) said the risk of germs has made them not use cash at all.

Eight in ten (79%) of Australians agree contactless payments are a cleaner way to pay.

You can read the full article here.

‘Perfect storm’ of credit card debt brewing for Australians during COVID-19

Rapidly falling incomes, a move to card-only payments and a complete avoidance of cash is creating a “perfect storm” for Australians to find themselves in deep financial ruin.
Andrew Fleming, CEO of financial stress-busting app Financial Mindfullness, says many Australians are unaware of the debt they are getting into by relying solely on personal credit.
“There is almost one credit card for every adult Australian. In January 2020 just before the crisis, there was $42.6 billion owing on credit cards with $28.4 billion accruing interest,” explains Mr Fleming.

Read the full article here.

Shop till you Drop – Financial Stress

We are still on holidays, right? Well the majority of us are enjoying the holidays somewhere with our family and friends.  The hangover from Christmas and New Year is all but over, but one hangover that hasn’t left us is our credit card bill from Christmas and the so-called holiday ‘sales’, financial stress looms.

Chances are we still can be engaged in the frenzy of ‘The Stocktake SALE’, ‘The CLEARANCE SALE’, ‘Super Daily Deals’, ‘50 months interest free, no deposit, no interest (read full terms)’, ‘It’s the Season to SAVE BIG’, ‘After Christmas SALE and CLEARANCE’, etc.

That clever marketing pressure can flick a switch in our brains where we go into a kind of ‘trance’, handing over our credit cards, tapping away now in a cashless society on auto-pilot to suppress those logical thoughts of ‘we really shouldn’t be spending so much’.

According to (a website helping start-ups connect with early adopters), 88 percent of the total impulse purchases are created primarily because the items are on sale. Rather than purchasing useful or necessary items, impulse shoppers buy primarily because it puts them in a better mood. In addition, many impulse purchases are made because people feel that they can’t pass up an extremely attractive offer.  Retailers know this all too well and exploit it.

So, what do we do about it?

In a recent interview by Money and Life last month, I was asked to identify some helpful tips to break the cycle of spending and debt. also found that when people shop with the purpose of buying immediate needs or forgotten items, the rate of compulsive buying falls by 53 percent.

Exactly how much do we spend on our credit cards?

The Australian Retailers Association expected Australians to spend $50 billion between mid-November and Christmas Eve. Aussie shoppers were tipped to spend a further $18 billion nationwide between Boxing Day and 15 January 2018. According to ARA executive director, Russell Zimmerman, the jump is being driven by online retail. “With Amazon’s recent Australia launch, we are certain that online retail will be a driving force for post-Christmas sales with the ARA and Roy Morgan forecasting the ‘Other Retailing’ category to increase by more than four percent this year.”

Gumtree survey, which has found that Aussies are expecting to spend a staggering $10 billion dollars on Christmas presents alone, equating to more than $700 on gift giving per person. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Gumtree research also found that almost 9 out of 10 Australians (86 percent) find Christmas puts a strain on their finances, with buying Christmas gifts dubbed as the biggest cause (66%) of this pressure.

The annual consumer survey by US company Statista found shoppers expected to spend an average of US$906 on Christmas gifts alone in 2017, not counting other holiday costs and sales spending. This is a massive jump from the 2016 average of US$752. In 2017, Christmas retail sales are forecast to grow to about 680.4 billion U.S. dollars; a 3.8 percent increase from 2016. Net result, Americans seem to be in a generous mood of giving more this year.  Does the Trump effect have anything to do with this?

In Australia, the Credit Card Debt Clock is ticking away and ticking upwards.  The MoneySmart clock shows how much Australians owe on credit cards. With around $32 billion owing, that’s an average of around $4,200 per cardholder.

In the US, Americans have now hit a scary milestone, the highest credit card debt in U.S history.  According to the Federal Reserve, Americans had US$1.02 trillion in outstanding revolving credit in Oct 2017. When it comes to individual households, the average American family owes US$8,377.  For the first time since the Great Recession, lenders have given more consumers with sub-prime, or below average, credit scores, access to credit cards, but they are giving them lower spending limits, according to the credit reporting agency TransUnion.

So, what does this impulse spending all mean to our Financial Wellbeing

Answer: Financial Stress.

Financial Mindfulness conducted a survey on Financial Stress in Australia and found 1 in 3 Australians suffer Financial Stress. The results of this press release appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Standard.
Marian Russell, one of Financial Mindfulness Facebook followers shared her personal experience on financial stress in the Sydney Morning Herald article.
New research is constantly being released on the impact financial stress is having on our financial wellbeing and general health worldwide.  According to the European Society of Cardiology, research recently presented at the 18th Annual Congress of the South African Heart Association, significant financial stress is associated with a 13-fold higher odds of having a heart attack.

So how can we get through the holidays not regretting our spending, not dreading the bloated repayments to come, then show up to work without that nagging sense of fear that comes from surviving with financial stress?

The answer lies in applying the principles of mindfulness – the proven practice of moment-by-moment awareness – to our finances. It means training our minds to slow down and make decisions that we won’t regret later.
An Australian start-up – Financial Mindfulness – is developing a financial stress reduction program designed to revolutionise the way we think and behave with our money. In the process, we can stay within our means and feel better about ourselves by saying goodbye to the worry of money.

Andrew Fleming
2nd January 2018

Send yourself a valuable gift: get mindful

Why do we spend money to feel good now, even if it’s clearly going to have negative consequences later? And why do we seem to make better decisions if they are planned and not impulsive?

The answers are complex, but just so you really get the idea, first imagine yourself under a lot of stress. Maybe you are working and studying, so you’re always flat-out busy, and there’s no end in sight. Or perhaps one of your parents is gravely ill and it’s hard to communicate about this with siblings you don’t get on with.

So you should feel really stressed.

Then without thinking, say which of these following suggestions sounds like a great idea a/ now, or b / in five years time: buying two pairs of the same fancy shoes you like because they are on sale, or selling your car today for $500 less than you could probably get because a buyer is ready with the cash and you want a weekend away.

You probably favour option a/ in most cases, meaning you want the ‘reward’ now.

Why? Because, according to behavioural scientists, “present rewards are weighted more heavily than future ones. Once rewards are very distant in time, they cease to be valuable,” so says
This was the finding of landmark research done in 2002 by Shane Frederick, George Loewenstein and Ted O’Donohue, and published in the Journal of Economic Literature.

Interestingly, when the reward is delayed, we are more prepared to wait to receive a greater reward. Research shows if given the choice between $100 in a year or $120 in 13 months, we will probably wait.

All this suggests if we plan for the future we are likely to make better decisions about money.  But it depends what that future event is, and how far off it is.
If it’s a skiing holiday in the Canadian Rockies, we will probably swing into action. If it’s retirement at age 70 (as the Australian Federal Government proposes from 2035), that feels somewhat less urgent, even though few would argue it’s more important.

In a 2014 report on savings, the Reserve Bank of Australia showed “younger households place more weight on saving for large purchases and emergencies to smooth near-term consumption rather than saving for longer-term (retirement) consumption.”

“Keys to managing decisions like these are to make those far-off outcomes feel closer,” Peter Sokol-Hessner, assistant professor in the department of psychology at University of Denver, told The Huffington Post.

He suggested “to imagine how you’ll feel when you can use those retirement funds, how grateful you’ll be that your younger self sent this gift into the future.”

If that sounds like a fairy story, there is research to back up the idea that we are more careful as ‘our future selves’. A study run by UCLA Anderson School of Management in 2011 found when people visualised themselves as 70 and were asked to imagine what they’d do with a $1000 windfall, they put more than twice as much money towards their retirement as those who were asked to visualise themselves now. They were more likely to choose short-term options like planning an extravagant outing or buying someone a gift.
So where does mindfulness come in?

Let’s be clear: a mindfulness practice, even one focused on money, isn’t going to directly impact your Canadian Rockies ski fund, let alone your retirement savings.

But if undertaken consistently, a mindfulness practice could help change the decisions you currently unconsciously make about spending.
For instance, you may decide to do extra research before selling your car or home, looking more carefully at trends and brainstorming other ways to find ready cash.

It does that by increasing time between your thoughts: that well-worn but accurate metaphor of busy thoughts as clouds against a blue sky that represents an untroubled mind.

“Thoughts are like clouds,” says Financial Mindfulness’s Chief Mindfulness Officer Tomas Jajesnica.

“When you can see more sky and less clouds you start to move out of an immediate, involuntary response state and towards the type of thought where you could think about your ‘future self’.”

A big benefit of a regular practice is a buffer against the power of marketing, he says. Think about the hype involved around the release of the next stage of a sought-after apartment development: it’s in the interests of a real estate agent to get you into a feeding frenzy state with other potential buyers, so the stage sells put, the project can go up and the next stage goes into marketing overdrive.

“But it’s not just effective in dealing with real estate,” Jajesnica says.
“A lot of marketing works on the idea of scarcity and urgency; some saying ‘quick, there’s only 100 in stock’ , or ‘hurry, it’s a brand new order’, or whatever. Marketing works on you by getting you to make a decision right now.

“A mindfulness process will help you to buy things rather than just be sold to.
“It’ll allow you to come from your own space, consider the consequences of your actions and respond by making decisions, rather than be manipulated by marketing.”

The real cost of gift-giving (part 3 of 3)

Giving gifts in ancient history began as a show of worship and over centuries has morphed into a show of appreciation. In the age of consumerism it’s become an expensive habit too, especially in Holiday season.

That said gifts are costs we bear without much complaint; giving feels good and it’s accepted as a cultural obligation. Besides, we have special labels for people who don’t play along: ever fear being labelled a Scrooge or Grinch?

Never mind that in the affluent West that many of us take months to repay debts incurred around Christmas time. So who’s not at least relieved that the annual festival of overspending is out of the way, right?

Wrong. The retail calendar is about to double face‐smack time‐poor, overworked consumers with Easter then Mother’s Day – not to mention birthdays and anniversaries for the rest of the year. So how can we possibly avoid the financial stress that comes from piling debt on top of debt?

Most of us are savvy enough to try and budget (even if they can’t always stick to it) and humble enough to get financial advice to try and do better. We are not clueless.

But without a complete overhaul in our thinking, choosing gifts will always be stressful – at the overwhelming array of options and the nagging temptation to over‐spend.

If you have tried every trick to rein in spending on gifts perhaps it’s time to try something new – mindfulness, which is loosely described as moment‐by‐moment awareness.

Take the example of a teenager who apparently aches for a sleek iPhone 7 for their birthday, if not the newest flagship Apple phone, an iPhone 8. These will set you back between $1000 and $1500. “Cravings tell some people they will be happy if they have the latest iPhone,” says Tomas Jajesnica, Chief Mindfulness Officer with Financial Mindfulness.

“And they might feel happy when they get one, but as an approach to life that is false. Having an iPhone has nothing to do with happiness.”

The reason that statement feels uncomfortable is because it’s true. Researchers from Washington University and Seoul National University, Joseph Goodman and Sarah Lim, found that giving ‘experiences’ increases the happiness of recipients more than material gifts – even if people are not socially close.

Hence the boom for online companies selling “experiential” gifts: in Australia, RedBalloon; in the UK, Red Letter Days and in the United States, retailers like Cloud 9 Living and Great American Days.

But focusing on experiential as opposed to material gifts is unarguably only half of the answer. While the research shows a hot‐air balloon ride or chocolate‐making course should satisfy the recipient more than boxed gift wrapped in a bow, if you try to please someone with the dollar value of your gift your debt problems could get worse and that is undeniably a problem for your whole life. Ever looked at the cost of sky‐diving, rodeo‐riding or maybe cage diving with sharks? You will spend hundreds of dollars on these.

Financial stress is irrefutably linked to health problems like depression, anxiety and sleep disorders so it’s not a big leap to see that the expensive gifts you buy – whether material or experiential ‐ could paradoxically lead you to feel less likely to connect with other people.

Most of us know overspending will put pressure on us, but since when did knowing right from wrong stop human beings from making mistakes? A parent, relative or partner with poor self‐control around money will often buckle to badgering from a child, or give into a yearning to people‐please, and buy that new smart phone, tablet, a holiday or even a car.

A daily mindfulness practice will lead to a more mindful approach to gift‐giving, so we do not drift into autopilot when buying. It’s inevitable this will lead us to confront some fundamental uncomfortable truths about money. “Mindfulness will help you accept reality as it is,” Jajesnica says. “That if you purchase this [phone] it may put pressure on all other elements of your life.”
It’s important to note mindfulness won’t automatically change your financial circumstances – although it could help you begin to change in that area. From there we can make some deep, meaningful changes: when we are forced to face old assumptions about money. “The idea that the amount of money we spend on someone is a measure of your love for someone is completely false,” says Jajesnica. “It’s a product of consumerism that we need to spend in order to be loving.”

“In first world countries we have third‐world happiness, but countries in Africa have first world happiness.”

Which brings us back to gifts. You can create lasting memories with creativity and knowledge of a person.

How about home‐made cookies baked with personal messages – each describing why you love the recipient ‐ hidden in the dough? Or a hand‐made recipe book containing meal suggestions from the recipient’s family members? Maybe get a t‐shirt printed with the recipient’s favourite funny saying or if you have time, plan a surprise outing and put thought into favourite stops and a destination, or even fill a tall jar with inspirational quotes written and printed in different colours.

If you have lots of time, learn the guitar then write someone a song and play it for them. If you don’t have much time, spend a couple of hours hand‐writing a letter telling the recipient what they mean to you. Could any gift feel better and teach about the real meaning of value?

Time is key idea here, you need to know someone or learn about them to know what might make them happy. And time is valuable. Benjamin Franklin was widely credited with the unforgettable line “time is money” in 1748 (although it’s been shown to have much earlier origins, perhaps even ancient Greece). We can spend money and time, but where spending too much money will cause you a lot of trouble, spending a lot of time only enhances relationships – especially on children – by creating last memories.

Tomas Jajesnica: “Time is so much more precious than anything you can buy someone.”

The real cost of gift-giving (part 2 of 3)

Our expensive habit of gift-giving is, roughly speaking, a material indicator of the value of one person to another.  Megan McArdle, writing for Bloomberg, argued “there is a higher logic to the gift economy … that mandates we keep giving and receiving objects of dubious value”.

Gift-giving, she said, was connected to “an innate human value called “reciprocal altruism” which makes the costs of gifts “a maintenance fee for your relationship”. All of this is warm (and as McArdle noted) fuzzy too. There are however real problems beyond conceptual warm fuzzy feelings.

As well-intentioned as gift-giving is, the reality is seldom that altruistic exercise in thoughtfully considered generosity. Most of us are time-poor and simply don’t know our recipents’ real wants and needs.

Research by Joseph Goodman (from Washington State University) and Sarah Lim (from Seoul’s Center for Happiness Studies) found people often buy material over experiential gifts, despite the fact that recipients often feel happier receiving experiences. Material gifts are those we can touch while experiential gifts are those that create a memory.

So gift-giving becomes a box-ticking exercise which we throw money at, then wrap up with a bow, just to be safe.

If it sounds mean-spirited to question gift-giving, that’s not the intention here. Only sociopaths, teenagers and debt collectors believe it’s better to receive than give. The problem is not gift-giving per se, it’s the mindless, bloated headless chook race that it becomes.

Last Christmas Australians splurged a mammoth A$28 billion on gifts alone on our credit cards – A$1272 for every many woman and child in Australia. Add the costs of Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries and you can see how gift-buying has become a major driver of the retail engine in Western economies. But at a personal level, buying gifts for everyone, and without tight budgetary limits, starts to look like a recipe for accumulating unnecessary debt.

Debt consistently shows up in surveys as a leading cause of financial stress. So what you might think, who isn’t under stress these days? But it’s now widely known personal money pressures are consistently showing up in research as a major cause – if not the major cause – of stress in general.
Now new American research shows what the end result of financial stress could be: high levels of serious illness. In the United States, the company Four Seasons Financial Education surveyed 511 employees in a national study and found disturbing correlations between financial stress and health problems.
The respondents rated their level of financial stress,  then the prevalence of health issues between two groups was compared.

People with high financial stress had higher reported incidence of health issues across all nine illnesses identified – heart attack, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, infertility, gastrointestinal issues and sleeplessness, migraines/headaches and memory loss.

“The greatest disparities were found with anxiety and depression between these two groups,” the study findings said. In the groups with lower financial stress, 19 per cent reported depression and anxiety, but amongst the more financially stressed respondents, 55 per cent were depressed and 68 per cent had anxiety.

When the survey responses were further broken down, into the very highest and lowest levels of financial stress, people under extreme financial stress were five times more likely to have memory loss issues, more three times as likely to report depression and nearly twice as likely to have anxiety. They were also twice as likely to have gastrointestinal problems.

Debt is a major cause for financial stress, so we are surely obliged to use whatever means we can use to reduce it. If you’ve tried all the usual advice and methods, it might be time to investigate a new approach.

In the final part of our series on the real cost of gift-giving, we look at how mindfulness can help reign in the costs of gift-giving and the intense pressure we can feel around it.

The real cost of gift-giving: Financial stress (part 1 of 3)

The tinsel and decorations may be long packed away under the stairs, but eight weeks after the festive season more than two million Australians are still paying off holiday credit card debts, according to Roy Morgan Research.

One of the leading pressures on many people’s already-strained financial position is the habit of over-spending on gifts; gifts that don’t necessarily prove our love for others. In this three-part series we will explore the size of our national gift-buying problem, look at the health impacts of the financial stress that follows and then explore how a targeted mindfulness practice can help change the auto-pilot approach to gift-giving while potentially bringing us even closer to loved ones.

Overall, Australians spent an average of A$539 on Christmas gifts (the total spend on gifts was expected to be $9.8 billion) according to Over this period an astronomical A$28 billion was plunged on cards.

More than 470,000 of us will take a painful six months to pay off holiday debts, while we still managed to spend an average of $315 each on Valentine’s Day (men paid more, $386 per person). All this while also juggling huge mortgage, student loan and/or car repayments. The national home loan bill topped A$1 trillion for the first time last May, according to the Reserve Bank.
But while we are weighed down with unavoidable repayments on big assets, the retail calendar cares not and rolls on cheerfully.

Easter is next (luckily the major supermarkets stock around 50 lines of chocolate each, not counting millions of Easter buns), then comes Mother’s Day (May 14), when consumer spending spikes to around $2 billion, according to the Australian Retail Association.

From mid-year on we face the long march of birthdays; the most popular months for birthdays in Australia include May, July, August, September and October, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Anyone who has hosted a children’s birthday party knows how expensive and high pressure they can be, with parents forking out anywhere between A$300 and A$3000. Then there’s the angst over how to please teenagers and other loved ones, a worry which is almost always settled by spending at or above our absolute limit.

Around this time, the reality of another entire year with our backs to the wall financially begins to sink in. Many of us have to accept we can’t afford a late winter or spring holiday, let alone a newer car – not with so many expenses and December just around the corner again. We make do with massages, maybe some new shoes and ice cream at the movies.

But the pre-holiday gift-giving hasn’t finished yet. Father’s Day is September 3, (on which about A$700 million is spent), followed by weddings and wedding anniversaries galore as the weather warms up. Spring and autumn are most popular seasons, April, September, October and November are the most popular months to get married.

While it seems like the right thing to show our love by buying new toys, trinkets, treats and gadgets for children, family and friends the cost is in black and white in our online statements.

We spend thousands upon thousands of dollars each year to try and please loved ones. And for that, what do we get? Apart from uneasy feelings about overspending on gifts given (and received), we get a mountain of debt stress which seems to grow taller and wider every year, casting a shadow over us even when we are at work.

More than half of Australians say personal finance issues are their leading cause of stress, according to the Australian Psychological Society.

AMP’s Financial Wellness in the Australian Workplace report found financially stressed employees took four more sick days than those who were not, and lost nearly seven hours per week in productivity.

The report said ‘bad debt’ was the leading cause of financial stress, with ‘supporting the family’ fourth and ‘budgeting’ fifth.

“Our research shows it has a negative impact on key performance outcomes such as job dedication, productivity, innovation, turnover, absenteeism and efficiency.”

“This represents a total cost of $47.2 billion to Australian employers annually,” the report concluded.

To find out how financial stress affects our health, check out part two in this three part series.

Financial Mindfulness: find your pulse, stop impulse buying

Who hasn’t indulged in a little retail therapy from time to time, especially after a shocking day at work, or an argument with your partner? It often seems like a good time to buy a pair of new shoes perhaps, go to a movie or buy an album, a bottle of wine, a therapeutic massage to de-stress or even sign up to a gym membership.

So it can feel a little impulsive to spend money we haven’t budgeted on, so what? On the surface it seems like we are taking care of ourselves: doing something to comfort ourselves to deal with the anger or frustration of having our feelings trampled, or not living up to our own or someone else’s expectations.

According to a poll of 1003 consumers by US website, five out of six American admit to impulse buying. One in five people had spent more than US$1000 on impulse, which rose to one in three for people earning over US$75,000.

Spending money impulsively can make you ‘feel better’ and ‘more alive’. It can certainly seem exciting, and it’s hardly as reckless as taking drugs or gambling, right?

But it can be a serious problem if this is something we begin to regularly, or with expensive items, as a way of coping. And let’s face it, jobs and relationships – and life in general – can be stressful for extended periods.

Fortunately there are plenty of strategies to manage your impulse buying urges –according to (a website helping start-ups connect with early adopters) you are much less likely to buy on impulse if you plan your shopping trip or walk to the shops rather than drive. It found that sales are a trigger for impulse spenders (a staggering 88 per cent of impulse buys are items “on sale” – even if you didn’t need that item). It also said impulse spending often happens when you feel “angry, stressed, guilty or bored”.

Let’s consider that last point: when you feel “angry, stressed, guilty of bored”. Anyone would admit the issues making us angry, stressed, guilty and bored – or sad, or ashamed, or lonely – are not solved by a bottle (or a case) of wine, or upgrading computer or bike or car, or booking a holiday or seeing a movie. Chances are we are just escaping feelings which will overwhelm us again in a few hours or days.

Working through complex and difficult problems is of course not easy. But we also forget what a hugely painful thing financial stress is. Ask yourself honestly, is your impulse buying adding to your financial stress?

Financial worries are now accepted as a leading cause of stress in people’s lives throughout the western world.

An Australian start-up company, Financial Mindfulness, is set to launch a world-first comprehensive personal tool harnessing the proven benefits of mindfulness to address the way we spend and invest money. Mindfulness is not, as some people believe an attitude, but is better described as the regular practice of moment-by-moment awareness.

“Member financial wellness, engagement and measurable behaviour change is what we are aiming for. Members learn through awareness and education to build sustainable healthy habits.” says Financial Mindfulness Founder & CEO, Andrew Fleming.

Watch this space for more details on when Financial Mindfulness will be available to help you.

Secret Santa turning in to a cash killer: Get Mindful

Who doesn’t love a good scary movie? Trailers for a bunch of freaky but fun films are all over social media right now, but one particularly nasty personal horror show has probably just dropped into your inbox, or is about to: your credit card bill from Christmas and the so-called holiday ‘sales’.

Chances are you’ve been avoiding those gory details because when the bills land, the debts are in the thousands so few of us experience, what the gurus call, Financial Wellness.

It’s likely most of us got a bit impulsive in the past month and bought a few extra gifts, food and alcohol in the mad rush to try and guarantee a happy holiday for family and friends.

That pressure can flick a switch in our brains where we go into a kind of ‘trance’, handing over our credit cards on auto-pilot to supress that creeping feeling we really shouldn’t be spending so much. But it’s the holidays and we are supposed to relax…

The Australian Retailers Association expected Australians to spend $48.1 billion between mid-November and Christmas Eve (nearly A$2000 each) 2016. In December, CARE Australia claimed we spend $179 million on unwanted ‘Secret Santa’ gifts – dud presents the receiver will probably give away or never use. Aussie shoppers were tipped to spend a further $17.2 billion nationwide between Boxing Day and January 15.

A consumer survey by US company Statista found shoppers expected to spend an average of US$752 on Christmas gifts alone in 2016, not counting other holiday costs and sales spending. Americans were expecting 14 gifts each last Christmas and total US retail spending for the 2016 holiday season was estimated at $3.1 trillion.

The end result? The emotional burden of guilt and fear that comes with big debts. More than half of Australians identify personal finance issues as the leading cause of stress, according to the Australian Psychological Society.

So maybe, just to deal with the stress of it all, we buy ourselves a few treats. Who hasn’t tried to make life a bit more bearable with some ‘retail therapy’? In trying to make situation get better we can just make it worse. Ultimately it all seems like relatively normal human fallibility, but few would argue we abandon earlier good intentions to only buy what we need to. It almost feels Grinch-like to penny pinch at Christmas, so we blow our budget – and it’s probably not the first time.

The unsettling feelings we get from living beyond our means spill over to our work lives too. AMP, a financial services company, released a study last October which said financial stress costs Australian employers A$47.2 billion a year.

But what if we could get through the holidays not regretting our spending, not dreading the bloated repayments to come? What if at the same time we could still make ourselves and our loved ones happy, maybe even happier than usual?

Then we could show up at work without that nagging sense of fear that comes from surviving with financial stress. Sound like a fairy story? It doesn’t have to be.

The answer lies in applying the principles of mindfulness – the proven practice of moment-by-moment awareness – to our finances. It means training our minds to slow down and make decisions that we won’t regret later.

An Australian start-up – Financial Mindfulness – is set to launch a comprehensive personal program designed to revolutionise the way we think and behave with our money.

In the process we can stay within our means and feel better about ourselves by saying goodbye to the annual horror movie of unwanted debt.

Watch this space for a world-first solution.