For anyone who’s counting down, there are now only 46 sleeps till Christmas (don’t shoot the messenger!). If that sets your heart to racing with anxiety, you’re not alone.
While Christmas is a joyous time meant to be spent with family and friends, most would agree that the crowds, the overspending and the unattainable expectations take the fun out of the holidays.
Many of us spend the year diligently saving and planning, only to have the wheels fall off during the lead-up to Christmas.
How can families that are trying to get ahead keep sight of their goals over the holidays?
Frugality is not deferred spending
Perhaps frugality is not the word to use.
Perhaps people don’t want to look at themselves as on a road to frugality.
Perhaps the word reeks of sacrifice, hardship and deprivation. Rather than worrying about semantics, let’s instead think of what a lifestyle of thrift and economy can give rather than take.
When you carry your practical handling of money with you through the holiday season, you focus on memories and moments instead of things.
You set an example for those around you. Small acts of kindness can replace grand displays of consumerism, and once people get a taste of genuine generosity it becomes contagious.
As the holiday season approaches, remind yourself of the care you have taken all year to get and stay out of debt.
Is there any reason now, beyond the pressure to conform, to abandon that philosophy?
When you have found joy in simple things all year, why would you now believe lavish spending is the only way to a joyous holiday?
Rejecting the consumerism of the modern Christmas might be just what your family needs.
Give gifts that mean something, rather than more plastic and more stuff that will quickly be discarded and forgotten.
Give, rather, of your time and talents. Take the time to visit the aged and shut in.
Talk with your kids about how happy their visit has made someone. Make something with your own two hands and give it away or share it.
Think of ways to bring people together and inspire kindnesses in the community. The world could use more of that.
Look to the past
What did your family do over the holidays when you were young?
Did they gather to eat and play cards? Go carolling or drive around to look at the Christmas lights?
Did you drop baking off with all the people that provide services during the year: the hairdresser, the mailman, the teachers?
Most importantly, how have these traditions changed in your lifetime? Have they become less personal and, at the same time, costlier?
Has your Boxing Day spent lounging and playing board games evolved into shopping the sales?
When you think about it, the conveniences we now enjoy have taken the human contact out of our daily transactions. In some ways, it’s led to a more efficient world. But a less human one. A lonelier one.
As this Christmas approaches, take a good look at the pastimes that made you happiest and most fulfilled over the year gone by.
Did you feel best when spending money? Is the euphoria of getting more things really what you seek?
Probably you have answered no, that you get little reward beyond that first rush of accomplishment.
Most people easily admit that buying things gives them only a temporary sense of well-being.
This Christmas, go for the gifts that linger—knowing you have helped someone that truly needs it, investing your time in someone that truly appreciates it, and teaching your kids the difference between these things and rampant consumerism.
Traditions that matter
For every dollar that Canadians make, they have $1.67 in debt. Are you going to add to this figure with your Christmas shopping this year?
Or are you going to step off the debt treadmill and create a different type of holiday for your family?
There are so many ways to replace costly habits with wholesome traditions.
Instead of exchanging gifts, spend an afternoon sliding on a snowy hill or brave the cold weather to have a wiener roast in snow suits.
Decorate a friend’s yard as a surprise.
Take your kids shopping for mitts and socks and drop them off at the women’s or men’s shelter. Buy food for the animals at the SPCA.
Shovel snow and get groceries for someone that is struggling with grief or illness.
The holidays are meant to be a happy time, but for too many they are a lonely time rife with reminders of better days.
Rather than focussing on how badly you wish you could spend this Christmas, remind yourself that there is plenty to give while still having a responsible, joyous holiday season.