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Financial Stress of Christmas

When money is tight, the holiday season can seem bleak and depressive. While budgets may have been stretched in the past, this year it is hovering on zero. The temptation to use credit cards already maxed out is great.

It has been reported that every year people overspend at Christmas resulting in taking half of the following year to pay off the debt. We have been conditioned to spend now and pay later. However, to continue to spend when we may or may not have a job next year, or when our budgets really can’t handle it, is playing a dangerous game with reality.

It is difficult to resist the temptation of spontaneous spending. Stores encourage spending by creating moods with lights, music and pleasant smells. It is easy to get lulled into spending more than you can afford because after all, aren’t we buying things for our loved ones? However, while it may make you feel good at the moment to spend more than you have, like drinking in excess, the hangover isn’t very pleasant.

I believe we can find a blessing or something positive in each and every situation. Perhaps the blessing hidden in our financial downturn is the opportunity to focus on what Christmas is all about – the birth of a Savior. Perhaps this year new traditions can be established for our family.

Talk to your kids about Christmas

Sit down with your children and talk about how this Christmas will be special because as a family you will be focusing on others rather than buying expensive gifts. Explain that limited funds will not keep you from having a wonderful Christmas. Together plan ways you can reach out to someone in need; offer assistance to an elderly person or bake some cookies for a stressed neighbor. Tell them how much their homemade cards and messages of love mean to you. Indicate that this year, there may be fewer gifts but they will be given out of love rather than meeting the demands of an “I want” list. Give them a gift of “time” that they can redeem throughout the next year. Perhaps it can be in the form of a coupon book or predetermined with their special interests in mind.

Years ago there were many lean years when raising my family. One year I made stuffed animals for each of my kids. That year my daughter more than anything else wanted a beautiful ballerina doll. It was outside our budget but her grandmother was able to purchase it for her. She was so thrilled when she opened her present that she cried. Yet, she reflected to her daughter and me that it had not given her all the hours of pleasure she had envisioned and it soon ended in the back of her closet. Instead, the stuffed toy became a treasured gift that was kept long after it had become worn and raggedy.

What does Christmas mean to you and why?

Check your own expectations. Which presents received in the past have given you the long term anticipated joy and happiness you thought they would? Which ones did not? What made the difference?

Christmas is more than money spent on Christmas gifts. It is about what we value and love. We give gifts because God gave us the gift of His Son. Attached to that gift was love and sacrifice.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


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