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Do you get the picture? If you are someone who feels conflicting emotions about the Christmas season, you are not alone! Many of us—while anticipating the blessedness of the celebration of when God became Man—are often sidetracked by the many things that assault us in our culture. I’m hoping to offer you a few simple antidotes for your money woes with the hope it may help keep you centered on the wonder of Christmas.
From my professional experience, here are two “woes” that lead to poor financial decisions during the Christmas season:
No Plan. Simply put, pressure keeps us a step behind, joy keeps us a step ahead! If you are not financially prepared for Christmas, it is a sure-fire way to take some of the joy out of your holidays. With advertisers screaming for your attention, it is easy to overspend. If you don’t have a budget in place this year, try establishing some “caps” to your purchases before you head to the mall, and then make it a high priority to establish a plan for next year. A master plan with a budget for the holidays is a must!
Emotional Shopping. Many well-meaning people seek contentment, security or significance through the gifts they buy, often trying to impress by the cost of the gift. When the desire to please is so compelling, wise purchases are often difficult to make, especially with last-minute shopping. Buying impulsively and emotionally may render a momentary thrill but it also can result in disappointment and guilt. It goes without saying that the nurturing of relationships and investing time in loved ones throughout the year outlasts any gift we could give seasonally … those purchases are often forgotten, discarded or even re-gifted.
Here are some simple tips to help keep the Ho Ho Ho in your Christmas:
• Freeze your credit cards—literally. The best way to keep from overspending is to use cash. I have actually encouraged people to put their card in a jar of water and freeze it if they have a tendency to overspend. That way, if they need the card for a genuine emergency, they can always thaw out the card. The odds of taking a frozen card to the store are slim!
• Wait 24 hours before buying anything that costs more than a pre-established amount. During our first year of marriage, my husband and I decided on the following policy: if anything was more than the amount we had decided upon (and not in the budget), we wait 24 hours to assess its value. After the day passes, if the item still holds its appeal, we then purchase it purposefully rather than impulsively. More often than not we discover it really wasn’t that important to us. We still operate off of this principle.
• Be thankful for what you have. Generally speaking, if you are reading this article, you have far more than most of the world. There is no better cure for your Christmas woes than a grateful heart.
• Give charitably to someone in need. Consider a gift of service or a financial gift or maybe even adopting a family in need. There is nothing quite like giving sacrificially at this time of year. After all, isn’t this really the true spirit of Christmas?
It is both a challenge to have little money and a challenge to have much. The person on a tight budget may struggle to even buy the basics at Christmas. The person with abundance may overspend without a thought to good stewardship. There are so many distractions that can keep our eyes off the greatest gift of Christmas. Wherever this season finds you, it is my hope that you will reflect on two things:
• First, on the joy and privilege of buying and giving appropriately
• Second, and most importantly, on the unfathomable gift of the babe in the manger
As J. I. Packer so eloquently put it in his classic book, “Knowing God,” “the taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way which shows how we should set it before ourselves and ever view it—not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.”
Here’s ho-ho-hoping you have a blessed, grace-filled Christmas!
— by Janice Thompson
Thompson is a certified financial planner, and co-founder and CEO of One Degree Advisors, Inc. A frequent speaker on financial topics and a mentor for financial professionals, she also serves on the board of directors for Kingdom Advisors. Learn more at onedegreeadvisors.com. Advisory services offered through One Degree Advisors, Inc. Securities offered through Securities America, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. One Degree Advisors and Securities America are separate companies.