Male or female, young or old, religious or not, everybody seems to love Christmas. The fun, the giving, the excitement, the children, the food, the tradition – what’s not to love? Yet, every year without fail, so many of us arrive at December 25th tired, disappointed, overextended, and — in a word — broke.
It seems like we get caught up in a stampede of sorts and, by the time the first credit card statement hits the mailbox, we’re in over our heads and it’s tough to remember how we got there. Yet alone understand.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! It’s possible to love Christmas, participate in the giving, add meaning we usually miss by a mile, and, at the same time, avoid the pitfalls of spending more than we can afford.
It’s all about initial trajectory, about heading into December with a good idea of where we’re going and why. It’s about finding Christmas and not losing our way.
All Pro Dad offers the following suggestions when it comes to “not breaking the bank this Christmas.” (Most of these ideas have been sampled from the 2008 book, “In My Heart I Carry A Star: stories for Advent”.)
1. Move into December directly from Thanksgiving:
Think of the Thanksgiving celebration as your launching pad into the Christmas Spirit. Thanksgiving is defined by gratitude for what we have. Gratitude is the most appropriate context possible for giving. It’s hard to be confused about overextending ourselves when we’re thinking about the Pilgrims who barely survived that first winter (1620-1621).
2 .Make a budget and stick to it:
We know, easier said than done! But there is a foundational principle at play here. We must control our spending, or it will simply run away with itself
3. Save over the next few weeks, place cash in envelopes designated by name, then purchase gifts using the cash:
This makes the budgeting process more concrete, clear-cut, and easy to follow.
4. Be clear about the meaning of Christmas:
Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by priorities that turn out to be valueless. Who is making the decisions about money? Is it you, and the values your family espouses? Or is it our culture, the power of advertising, and peer pressure? After all, isn’t it your money?
5. Make a family decision to give to a charity instead of buying things no-one really needs:
Several things happen when you give in this way:
– Deep satisfaction
– You know how much you’re giving and you stick to it
– A purer understanding of what it means to give
– A sense of perspective
6. Shop early, as you can afford items, and then save them for Christmas:
Why not start shopping early, little by little, and buy what you can afford as the money becomes available?
7. Choose ahead of time not to use a credit card, and then put the promise in writing:
Making an active decision always makes a difference in behavior. Once credit is out of the equation, it frees our thinking up for alternative ideas and more realistic priorities
8. Pay attention to cues from your family, and get gifts that will bring joy rather than gifts that will make you feel generous:
Are you buying that expensive bracelet because it will make your wife happy? Or because it will make you feel generous? Learn to listen, plan ahead, and make the giving experience a real treasure hunt.
9. Handmade gifts reflect planning, effort, creativity and love:
They are, in effect, more valuable because they represent creative thought and personal effort.
10. Value thoughtfulness over cost:
“It’s the thought that counts” may be a cliché… but it’s a cliché because it’s true. Raw dollar amounts say nothing about the gift. We are deceived if we believe that a gift is “better” because it has a larger price tag.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your wife tonight and ask her: How can we spend 50% less this year on presents than we did last year?