“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Teresa
It seems that almost everywhere you look at the moment, there is an abundance of examples of all the wonderful things we can purchase in order to show our love and appreciation for those around us during this Holiday season. Whether it’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday or just a day that ends in ‘y' there seem to be a myriad of reasons for retailers to slash prices in order to tempt us into spending and a vast number of “deals” that are just too good to resist.
However, just like so many things that seem “too good to be true” sometimes those purchases leave us with a heaping of buyer’s remorse (and some seriously inflated January credit card bills). It’s a retailer’s job to create a desire for a product and to make it as easy as possible for us to purchase it. As smart consumers we need to be aware that we’re being sold at every turn and that, because the anticipation of pleasure is far more addictive to our brain than the realization of pleasure, it’s hard for us to resist making purchases on impulse. I’ve had a number of conversations with friends and clients over the past few weeks about the pressure to spend and it got me thinking about what we can do in order to reduce that pressure so that we can really enjoy the spirit of the season.
Make a plan
One of the advantages of giving your money a purpose and using a money management system is that it allows you to plan for expected and unexpected expenses. The Christmas season is one that occurs every year and, if you buy gifts each year, then a holiday spending plan needs to be a part of your savings goals in the same way that your retirement, house or vacation funds are. Take a look at how much you usually spend over the holiday season and then figure out how much you need to allocate from each paycheque to ensure that you have enough. Holiday shopping is a very different experience when you’re spending money that is intended for spending rather than juggling your bill payments in order to pay for what you want to buy.
Related article: A disciplined spending plan
Set a limit, stay within it
Make sure you stay within the limits of your holiday spending plan. Take the time to plan ahead for what you want to buy for each person on your list and stick to your budget. It’s so easy once you get into the store to be tempted to add just one more thing but you’ll be surprised how easy it becomes to resist when you remind yourself that you don’t really need it – your brain is just being tempted by the savvy marketing skills of the retailer!
Keep it simple
Over the past few years my family has redefined much of the way we shop for each other at Christmas. Growing up, Christmas was never extravagant but we always had a nice pile of gifts under the tree. What we found though, was that even after we left home we still continued on the buying patterns of our childhood. That left us with a very long list of people to buy for, most of whom were more than capable of buying anything they needed and weren’t really in need of extra “stuff”. We were buying for the sake of buying something and it was costing a lot! We stopped buying gifts for cousins, aunts and uncles and cut back on the amount of money we allocated for each other. We also made a choice to start directing some of the money we’d previously used to buy gifts for each other towards supporting projects such as the “Tree of Angels” which allows you to buy a gift for a child who might not otherwise have anything under the tree on Christmas morning.
Spend on gifts or relationships
My siblings and I are all busy adults with our own homes and instead of buying gifts for each other, we chose instead to spend the money on making time to go out for dinner or to a movie and spend time together. We do the same thing with our parents and with life being so busy and me living so far away it’s nice to have a reason to create the time to hang out together. Last year I started to do the same thing with my friends and found that everyone was quite relieved to be able to cross one more person off their list and reduce their spending while increasing the amount of quality friend time.
Season of giving, not spending
The holidays are traditionally considered a “season of giving” but that doesn’t have to mean spending. We can give time, trade skills, have fun without spending a penny if we choose to. The spending is just a habit, it’s not the heart of what this time of year is about and sometimes, with our society being so focused on accumulating “stuff” it can be hard to remember that.
How do you manage your holiday spending? Do you find yourself under pressure to buy for people or have you found a way to cut back on your list? Maybe you've found a creative way to give gifts that don't cost a lot but bring a lot of joy. Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.