Christmas is a very emotional time of year for most people. It is the big crescendo at the end of the year that people can spend months planning for. It is a time of year when people feel like giving to others and caring about others. Everyone experiences different feelings and emotions during this time and these can include feeling stressed, happy, excited, sad, joyful, lonely, depressed, elated, worried etc.
We all know is that modern day marketing is built around pulling on people’s heart strings and playing with their emotions. During Christmas we see a lot of this, especially with t.v., radio and print advertising. For example we have all heard lines such as:
“Show mum you love her by buying her . . . this Christmas”
“Give your children their best Christmas yet by buying them . . . “
“The one you love deserves to be spoilt this year. Buy her a . . . “
“Forget the socks and jocks, what he really wants from Santa is a . . . “
“Don’t let YOUR children miss out! You must buy them . . . this year”
Have you ever noticed the gifts that they suggest you buy cost hundreds of dollars and sometimes even thousands of dollars? It is natural to feel guilty if you are contemplating spending say $30 or $50 on that person, when you see advertising telling you that if you truly love someone you will spend hundreds of dollars on them. The marketing guru’s have weaved their magic, and before you know it you have lifted your spending and are buying a more expensive present just so you don’t feel guilty!
You may also experience other emotions that give you a drive to go out and spend lots of money during this time of year. These may include feeling guilty that you haven’t spent enough time with someone during the year, feeling sad that a close family member is no longer around at this time of year, feeling depressed about life and in need of retail therapy.
What you need to do is to learn to control your emotions as best as you can by understanding your emotions and why you feel a particular way and then focusing on something else that you enjoy doing to lift you up and make you feel in control. You also need to ignore all of the propaganda, advertising and hype that makes Christmas a commercial enterprise. Focus on the true meaning of Christmas instead and make it a time of year full of traditions, joy, happiness, caring and sharing.
Here are some clues on how you can do this:-
1. Don’t go overboard
- Write a list of who you would like to buy / make presents for
- Put a limit on how much you will spend on each person
- Write down some ideas of what you can buy that person. Ignore the advertising that tells you what you have to buy, and throw away the guilt you feel by not spending ridiculous amounts of money
- Give gifts that have a special meaning rather than a set dollar value
- Ensure you have the money to spend in your savings accounts, else cut down who you buy for or how much you spend on each person
- Tune out and turn away from the marketing campaigns and advertising that encourage / tempt you to overspend
- Keep your Christmas nice and simple and within your budget. This includes present giving, Christmas feasts, holiday activities etc.
2. Teach Your Children
- Only buy your children a couple of gifts – don’t shower them with loads of presents especially if you have lots of family and friends who also buy things for them
- Ask your children to choose 2 or 3 gifts that they want, advising them that if the gift is too expensive they probably won’t get it
- Don’t be pressured into feeling that you are a bad parent if you don’t buy your children the latest gadget or toy that has been advertised to death over the weeks leading up to Christmas
- Buy your children what you can afford and remember time spent with them is worth a million dollars to them
- Help your children to write a present list themselves – who do they want to give a gift to
- Teach children how to budget and ensure they have the money to buy what they want to give
- Spend time with your children and encourage / help them to make gifts and cards for their friends / family
3. Spend time with your family instead of spending money
- Take a walk / drive to see the Christmas lights in your neighbourhood
- Have a sing a long and sing Christmas carols
- Play board games or do jig saw puzzles together
- Go to a Carols by candlelight
- Read Christmas stories as a family
- Watch Christmas DVD’s
- Participate in free activities put on around your neighbourhood – church pageant, Christmas carols, lighting of the Christmas tree, Christmas parades etc
4. Start some family traditions
- Decorating the house and tree with home made decorations / ornaments
- Hanging some Christmas lights
- Making Christmas presents for friends and family
- Making Christmas cards
- Making Christmas treats – mince pies, shortbread, cookies, cakes, chocolates
- Hanging an advent calendar
- Going to a service at your local church / place of worship
5. Give to others less fortunate
- Buy a present and put under a charity tree
- Give some time to help out a local charity
- Help sell Christmas cards / products for your local charity
- Send a card to someone in a nursing home / shelter / lonely neighbour
- Make a monetary donation to a charity of your choice
- Visit an elderly lonely neighbour
If you let your Christmas get out of hand all that you are going to do is end up feeling very depressed, stressed, worried and concerned when the big event is over and reality sets in.
There is nothing worse than seeing the damage after the event. The credit card bills will flow in during the New Year, the bank account statements will be delivered in the first quarter of the year and you are likely to then see the trouble and grief you have caused yourself.
Why spend the next year or two suffering financial pain because you went over board and got caught up in the hype of Christmas. Make this Christmas an enjoyable one and spend your New Year relaxing and working on savings goals instead of struggling working out debt reduction strategies.