There’s a price tag associated with “the most wonderful time of the year,” and an increasing number of Americans find the financial pressures associated with the holidays outweighing any “warm fuzzies” they might experience. In fact, nearly half of adults would rather skip Christmas altogether. Even still, many plan to spend the same this year as in 2013. In order to stop the cycle of indebtedness and being overwhelmed with financial pressure, we need to honestly take stock of our hearts and lives and make hard choices.
Discoveries of Motivations
According to author and speaker Dave Ramsey, a lot of consumer spending (and consumer debt!) occurs because we’re “buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” Perhaps never is this more obvious than at Christmas time. The obligatory gift, desire to give children “a good Christmas,” or even the attempt to outweigh negligence or bad behavior from the past year all point to problematic thinking. Giving can be a very good thing — but it can also be unhealthy, both relationally and financially.
What do you feel pressured to purchase this holiday? Is it something that reveals a desire to impress (or simply avoid embarrassment) or to perpetuate an entitlement mindset?
Demonstrations of Love
Especially for those for whom physical gifts are the main way in which love is communicated, the idea of not giving gifts — or as nice a gift or as many gifts — can seem unloving. For those close and special relationships in your life, coupons for time together, promises of future surprises, or even personal letters can be more significant than the dollar amount spent. There really is no rule that says Christmas is the time when you have to break the bank if you really love those close to you; in fact, you might well serve them best by releasing yourself from financial pressure and simply taking time to be together and celebrate the simple joys of the season.
Do you feel like you need to spend a lot of money in order to prove your love? What would communicate love to your close family and friends more aptly than a high-ticket item? If you didn’t feel so much pressure, would you be better able to actually experience the joys of the season?
Disciplines of Sacrifice
Maybe you had your heart set on buying something big for someone special to you, but you know you can’t afford it. Instead of propelling yourself further into debt, you can determine to set aside a certain amount each week or each month for the coming year, enabling you to purchase the item without going into debt next year. Not only will you avoid the pressure (and interest rates!) of indebtedness, but you’ll also establish the discipline of saving up, showing your love by sacrificing little things all year in order to give more generously.
Can you afford what you want to give? Should you consider putting off your well-intentioned gifts for another year? How can delaying that gratification help you establish greater financial discipline?
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