Is (holiday shopping) credit card debt the kiss of death under the mistletoe?
Do your finances spin out of control while shopping for 8 nights of Chanukah gifts?
Money stress is as normal as holiday lights twinkling before Halloween these days. A recent LearnVest post discussed couple conflict about over-indulgent holiday spending – and debt. I started thinking about present’ expectations and how the anticipation of those wrapped packages uncover surprising presence about gifting and celebration. Especially since I have more good cheer than money these days.
As Black Friday started before the Thanksgivannukah Turkey is cleared from the table this year, I wondered: How special are gifts these days? While I’m not quite old enough to have received an orange or (more likely) a lump of coal for Chanukah, I remember when shopping the day after Thanksgiving was a rare and special occasion. In fact, every gift was a BIG DEAL “back in that day” because shopping and “the biggest sale of the season” wasn’t a weekly occurrence. Back then we walked in parks – not malls. It’s impossible to turn back time (though I’d love an eye cream that delivers on that promise), but environmentally and economically it makes sense to rethink how and what we spend and consume. Seems to me celebration should focus on keeping bank balances in the black, while maintaining green, to prevent seeing red credit card bills.
So I thought I’d share my financial gift: 5 steps to work through and talk about money – by yourself, with your partner, or your whole family.
1. Write out a plan and check it twice (to make sure it will really work for you). Start and end with how much you can – or want to spend to stay festive. Most of all be honest with yourself, family, partner, and friends. If you don’t have money to spend, tell them what’s important to you and why (i.e. not going into debt or spending money you don’t have). Come up with a list of fun and FREE things to do. When you find yourself beginning 2014 with a balanced budget and sanity, be sure to write a thank you note to friends and family who helped you celebrate in a financially and emotionally balanced way.
2. Ho-ho-hmmmm….: Does your current level of glitz equal fun or frustrating? Define your meaningful glitz by writing down what you love and not so much about holiday ‘celebrations’ and gifting. For each, identify what you give and what you get emotionally and monetarily. Is there a pattern about your spending of good cheer and money? I love getting little things that are hand-made – what about you?
3. Gelt: got it or not… Gelt, wrapped chocolate coins gambled during a Chanukah game of drivel may be symbolic and insightful about what pot you’re throwing money into. I used to LOVE buying (what I thought) was the perfect gift – but that was when I spent gelt like I ate chocolate – freely. Now gifting is laden with guilt over gelt: how do I explain the low-level glitz to the niece who has everything and whispers in my ear: ”what did you buy me? Bring me a gift next time.”? If a relationship is defined by the cost of a gift, is it really a relationship? Honestly assess your gelt – and check your guilt at the door: do NOT apologize – spend only what you can afford.
4. Reframe spending traditions…. Extended family celebration’s at Thanksgiving have filled me with amusement and horror as “the kids” rip off wrapping paper without thanks and seemingly without meaning. I like my friend Kevin’s family gifting tradition: Everyone is assigned one person to gift. On Christmas Day, after the lutefisk, they line up, holding received presents, opening them one by one , starting with 80 year-old Grandma. Somehow the kids wait till everyone else’s gift had been oohed and aahhed over till they open their own. Start your own meaningful gifting tradition – or borrow or adapt from these 8 families http://www.learnvest.com/2013/11/8-ways-to-give-holiday-gifts/?gallery=731&pid=#pid-8472_aint-0. A few years ago I started gifting my nieces with a donation in their name to a charity or cause of their choice. It hasn’t won me any popularity contests, but I hope it helps them understand the meaning of giving.
4. Experience the love by spending on experiences, not “stuff”. Years ago I convinced friends to forego gifts for doing something together. Sure we might have planned these outings anyway, but they feel so much more special because they force us to be present to celebrate. I don’t miss the gifts, but I would absolutely miss spending quality time together. What special outings can you plan that would feel luxurious on the cheap?
5. Share gratitude. I don’t know about you but even though I don’t give to get thanks, I love being thanked. For me, it is a show of love, of gratefulness for the relationship more than the “stuff” given. If you’re like me and wonder if thank you notes are as endangered as polar bears, give others (especially young people) a gift that will last a lifetime: a reminder to write thank you notes (or at least thank you texts). After all, where will they learn if we don’t teach? And what can be more meaningful and gratifying than being thanked for an act of kindness, time spent together, or a token of friendship? Now that I’m writing this, I think this might be the place to start your planning with your partner or family. Most of all, share self-gratitude – try writing yourself a thank you note for being a good soul.
Here’s wishing you a financially balanced and emotionally fulfilling holiday season. And thank you for reading - and hopefully sharing these ideas with those you love.