How To Avoid a Christmas Debt Hangover
Last year there was a woman who was thrust, full tilt, into a season of fame, because of one social media post. This lady was a mom, full of Christmas cheer, who wanted to “share” it with her friends and family.
She took a picture of the living room/dining room of her home and posted it to her social media account. The photo showed her festive house, fully decorated, but it also revealed stacks upon stacks of gifts for her children.
The brightly colored packages were piled from the floor to the ceiling and filled the entire frame of the photo.
Responses to the photo began pouring in from every possible corner of the world. Mom was invited on every day time talk show and news program for weeks, to defend her extreme indulgences to her children.
As I watched this story play out on social media and on my TV, I had conflicted emotions.
On the one hand you have a mom who is demonstrating love to her children and trying to make the most out of their Christmas holiday. Right??
But then, on the other hand, the practical side of my brain worried over the expense that went into all those gifts and what her children were learning and absorbing about getting and receiving gifts.
I know that mom’s struggle. I have been that mom. For each year that my husband and I have been married, there has been a “Christmas talk”. I tend to want to be the mom who wants to indulge my children and my loved ones at Christmas through the packages I purchase and wrap for them and Kevin is considerably more conservative. For the last 18 years he has had to talk me down and keep me grounded.
In fact, just yesterday we had the “talk” and it prompted me to do a little research. The numbers that I found were staggering to me.
- $626.1 Billion dollars was spent on Christmas in 2015
- The average spending per person is around $800
- $117 Billion dollars’ worth of gifts were purchased online
- One study revealed that roughly 6 million people will borrow money to purchase gifts this Christmas
- The month for the highest rate of bankruptcies, is March
This is NOT what Christmas is about and yet somehow we have bought the lie that this is what we need to do in order to have a festive joy filled holiday (myself included). According to one study that I read, consumers are exposed to 5,000 advertisements a day. We ingest these advertisements, often without even being aware of them. Is it any wonder then, that when we think of scaling down our giving, we struggle with guilt?
Believe me, I am speaking from experience here, there is not a thing festive to be found in a Christmas debt hangover. The real kicker, is that come next year, your children and your family will find it hard to even remember all the things that were in the packages under the tree.
What they will remember, are the experiences that you had together, the laughs, the food, and the time spent together.
This Year, Just Say No to the Christmas Debt Hangover!
So what is the secret? How do you celebrate Christmas with all the trappings and the trimmings without breaking the bank?
Set Your… Focus: You probably thought I was going to say “set your budget” and I will get there, but before you even get to the money aspect, I really believe that you first need to set the focus on what your hopes and dreams for this holiday season are.
What memories do you want your children to store in their memory jars?
What experiences can you have as a family that will draw you closer to each other, help your community, and draw your focus to the reason for the season.
It is so easy to get caught in the swirl of activity and just go and do mindlessly. This year set your focus before it gets set for you.
Set A Budget: Before you step foot in a store or boot up your computer to purchase gifts, set a budget. Be sure to set your budget based on your current financial position. Not the bonus that is coming in 3 months or the tax return that will roll in this year, but right now. I promise you there is no one, not one person, on your gift list, that wants you to be part of that March bankruptcy statistic, just because you had to get them a gift.
Set Your Gift List: I consider myself a generous person. It gives me great pleasure to give gifts during the year, but unfortunately, our budget doesn’t always allow for my bouts of giving. Set your gift list priorities and then divide your budgeted amount to see how much you have to spend on each person. Remember that homemade is NOT second best. If you can’t afford to purchase a gift, get creative, head to Pinterest or to your kitchen and show your love with your two hands. The greatest gift you can give may not even be able to be tied up with ribbons and bows. Use words to let someone know the impact they have made in your life, the things that you have learned from them, or why you are so lucky to have them in your life.
This post is convicting me all over again as I write. It has caused me to reflect on some of our happiest family Christmas memories. Ironically enough, not a single one that came to mind had to do with gifts. This surprised me.
I then went to my oldest daughter and asked her what some of her favorite memories were. She mentioned the times we blessed others, bringing cookie plates to neighbors or taking from our gifts and giving them to children that weren’t going to have Christmas. She reflected on the year of the puzzles, when all we did was assemble puzzles in our Pj’s. Her favorite memory of all, surrounds our nativity scene and how I always forgot where I hid baby Jesus or how the kids would always find his hiding spot before Christmas morning.
So, I am going to challenge you. This Christmas, work hard to separate your emotions from your buying decisions. If Christmas is just about the gifts, it equates to one day. If we make Christmas about a season of memories, expressions of love, and joy in knowing God loved us so much he sent his son, then we receive so much more out of it.