Personal Finance » Spending

Christmas hangover

Part of my message as a retirement advisor is to help folks avoid the potholes that may appear in the road of transition to a positive retirement. Christmas has some potholes of its own that can set us up for an unhappy New Year! Watch out for what I call the 3 Ds.

The first D is for Depression

About 45% of us actually do not look forward to this season. Visits to counselors and doctors for anxiety and depression go up markedly in December and January. It is the dark time of year and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be a part of this picture. Other factors include unrealistic expectations and disappointment in gifts, relationships, social interaction, and our own personal happiness level. It can be difficult to keep up with holiday movies and magazine images.

Others can be upset at the commercialization of Christmas with seasonal music blaring and decorations up long before Christmas. Some feel the ads, sales, Christmas specials, and hype are non-stop. We are surrounded with the pressure to spend, give, wrap, party, drink, and be ceaselessly merry. It can be difficult to live up to our own expectations as well as those who expect so much from us. Then there are all the odious comparisons as everyone else seems happier, richer, more attractive, and better dressed in holiday fashion than us! ‘Tis the season to be jolly after all. But how realistic is that really? How about authenticity or content instead.

This is especially difficult for those who have suffered a loss and Christmas feels very different without that loved one. It is also a drama if everything is not going well in your relationships at the moment. You may not feel all that motivated under the mistletoe.

The second D is Divorce

OK, this may be a bit over the top but January has twice as many divorce proceedings than any other month. Is it part of the Christmas hangover or was the couple just holding on so as not to ruin Christmas for everyone else? Is it the emotional and/or financial stress of the season, the alcohol consumption, the disappointment, or the reality that sets in around the holidays? Maybe it is the New Year new start thinking. Whatever the reason, that cluster of divorces right after Christmas gives one a pause for the Claus.

The third D is for Debt

It can be a challenge to keep a commonsense approach with a list, a budget, a sense of humor, and a doable timeline. All marketing forces are pointed at us as consumers to impulse buy.

Here are some tips to avoid getting into too much debt because of Christmas:

  • Shop early! Desperation costs.
  • Pay cash. If you do not have it, you cannot spend it.
  • Downsize your list and your gifts for each on it.
  • Give a service or experience from babysitting to a home-cooked dinner.
  • Check out second-hand stores.
  • Skip the expensive wrapping as it will likely just be trashed anyway.
  • Have a plan and a budget and stick to it.
  • Make some homemade gifts. Personal touches count!
  • Relax and have fun with the process and the people.

Creating happiness for others can make us happy and money is not the only way to do that. Stop and see alternate opportunities to do this. Notice beauty and joy wherever you can. Figure out what you are grateful for and make your choices based on all the best values you have. All the best for this Christmas and avoid those potholes!

What are you doing to sidestep the 3D hangover of Christmas?

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