Post by Barry Myers
My busiest time of year as a financial counselor is the early spring. Why? People have overspent at Christmas; they’re anticipating a tax refund and have the New Year’s resolution of avoiding bankruptcy they’re trying to keep. There’s no good reason you can’t enjoy Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth (and be generous with gifts while you’re at it) and still maintain budgetary sanity as of 12/26. Today let’s talk about 5 big Christmas traps and how you can avoid them.
Trap 1: Everybody gets a gift
This is ridiculous. If you are reading this post, you have way more than you already need and most of what you want. You don’t need another gift and several of the people on your list don’t either. Think about this: what would happen if this year, you bought NOBODY a gift? I’m not suggesting it, but think about it for a minute. If within a couple of months the person on your list wouldn’t even recall you didn’t buy them a gift, don’t buy them a gift!
Trap 2: “He/she needs” __
Fill in the blank. If you really think about it, most of us get much more than we deserve at Christmas and 99% of us get more than we could ever use. Generosity is wonderful, but don’t fall into the trap of forgetting the difference in needs, wants and wishes. You’ll overextend yourself trying to meet an unreasonable expectation.
Trap 3: I “deserve” __
Like trap #2, it is common for people to get an attitude of “I deserve” around Christmas-time. People generally eat more, drink more, spend more and generally misbehave more around Christmas, all in the name of celebrating. It is about worship, not self-indulgence. So enjoy your hot cocoa, fruit cake and all the gifts, but recognize it for what a blessing it is instead of something you deserve.
Trap 4: Christmas is so depressing
For a few years in the not-so-distant past, I really struggled with Christmas because it was such a big deal – all the gifts, all the food, all the people who I “have to” visit with. Then I realized – I am so amazingly blessed to have people who love me and want to be a part of my life. There are so many that, at this time of year, feel like they have no one and that no one cares about them. Don’t fall into this trap. Despite the awful nature of much of society, there are still people who care – I care! Christmas is a celebration that CHRIST IS BORN! For unto us a son is born, unto us a child is given! If you struggle with depression around this time of year, remember what Christmas is really about.
Trap 5: We can afford the payments
Don’t hate January! I want you to enjoy Christmas and not want to hide under your bed when the bills come in January. If you live on a budget and stay within your means, the gifts under the tree may look a little different or be a little fewer, but since none of the TV commercials will tell you this, IT ISN’T ABOUT THE GIFTS! If you can afford to buy your loved one a fancy NEW car and want to do so, go for it. But if you can’t even afford a worn-out, broken-down USED car on your budget, then don’t go overboard! Throughout the month of December, Stacy has been sharing ways to save money this Christmas – use those ideas. Brandy’s post earlier this week had some great ideas on how to be generous on a limited income. If you can’t afford to buy something and pay cash for it, then you can’t really afford it.
If you can navigate through this Christmas season without falling into these traps, I promise you can come out on the other side unscathed. Otherwise, you may end up like this guy: