It’s that time of the year again…
The holiday season is here and with that comes being bombarded with emails about Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, seeing pictures on Facebook of fancy Thanksgiving table spreads and 15 foot Christmas trees with all the fancy ornaments, huge presents in aesthetically pleasing wrapping paper and bows. You may get asked “did you get all your shopping done” or receive a text from a friend that your favorite store is 20% off.
Most Americans rack up their credit cards during this time. According to a study done by Credit Karma, 69% of Americans plan to go into debt to cover costs over the holidays this year and of those, 38% plan to go into debt just to cover the holiday meals. The holidays can make people a little unreasonable to say the least and it’s difficult to set boundaries and stay content when we’re being pushed to consume, consume, consume in the name of “tradition” and “feeling obligated.”
If you’re left feeling broke, defeated and low after the holidays, here is some tough love and ways to stay content:
1. Spending money because something is on sale still means you’re spending money
One of my favorite financial gurus Dave Ramsey always says “just because something’s “on sale” doesn’t mean you have to buy it.”
Do you validate your spending on things you don’t really need just because it’s on sale? A lot of people like to brag about finding sales just so they can spend money, but at the end of the day they end up with stuff they don’t really need or like and usually end up forgetting about it once the dopamine hit of the spending for the sale fades off and fades off quickly. Spending money just because something is on sale is the least intentional thing you can do, especially around the holidays when we are bombarded with them. If something has been on “your list” of things you may need to upgrade for a while like a broken laptop or a bum vacuum, yeah, hit up that sale. Buying an item just because you want it, not because you need it adds up over time. It starts to look like a lot of random stuff in your home and precious hours of your day working wasted.
Something I like to do is to think of the item I am buying in terms of hours spent to earn the money to buy that item. Say you are a SAHM and your husband works long days and hours to pay the bills. Say he makes $30/hour and you would like to buy some random extra decorations for your home and spend $200 bucks at HomeGoods. That is just about an entire day of your husband working and being away from you and the kids. When I think like that it really puts what I am buying into perspective.
2. Ask yourself a couple of questions and honestly respond.
A few questions to write out in your journal:
a) Why do I have a hard time feeling content?
b) What are usually my biggest expenses during the holidays? How can I cut back this year?
c) Do I really need more decorations this year or am I trying to “keep up with the Jones'”
d) What is really important to me during the holidays?
e) How can I be more intentional with my gift giving? Where can I swap gifts for experiences with my loved ones?
3. Set boundaries
I have heard a lot of women say that they just love Christmas and they like everything to be over the top. If you have the means and you truly feel good after going all out like that, by all means, do you. However, if you are buying all this food, cooking tons of meals and buying loads of presents for others just because you always have, and then you are left with mounds of debt or feeling run down and like you’ve taken 100 steps back in life, it is absolutely time to set some boundaries. Just because you have always done something, doesn’t mean you have to continue. Ask another family member to host this year, make your party smaller and more intimate by just inviting immediate family.
4. Make a sinking fund
“Christmas is not an emergency. It doesn’t move around or sneak up on you. Lack of planning is not an excuse to use credit cards.”– Dave Ramsey
Unfortunately too many Americans just plan to throw all their Christmas gifts on a credit card and decide to worry about paying it off later. That is not very wise or intentional.
Christmas comes on December 25th every single year. This means you have the ability to plan ahead. If you’re having trouble with money around the holidays, create a sinking fund and contribute to it slowly over the year. For example, say you would like to spend $800 total for Christmas between holiday meals and gifts. Every month you would contribute about $67 to the fund. By the time Christmas comes around, you will have your $800 without noticing a huge hit to your bank account or spending your holiday bonus for people other than your family.
5. Stop comparing your life to people you don’t really know on social media
If you need to, mute or unfollow people who make you feel like what you have isn’t good enough. For example, I get lost in YouTube videos a lot where mothers are cleaning up their homes and decorating for the next season. They are always sharing their must haves from different stores and making their homes look so beautiful. I find myself wanting to get all of these things to make my house look the same because I feel it will make Christmas feel more special for my children. I have to check myself and remember that having a decorative home for Christmas isn’t important to me, keeping the magic of Christmas is what I’m after. Even though I love a lot of their videos, I will unsubscribe because the content isn’t serving me or my goals in the long run.
6. Practice gratitude
“Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”– Eckhart Tolle
A lot of people believe that once they get the next best car, remodel their kitchen, get that promotion, buy that new iPhone THEN they will be happy. Happiness doesn’t come from achievements or material things, it comes from within. It might feel good for a few minutes to achieve your goals whether they are material or rank-based, but that feeling wears off pretty quickly. You’re then left feeling just about the same way you did before your big achievement.
If you don’t know how to feel happy within, it is very important you start a gratitude practice.
If you don’t know where to start when it comes to practicing gratitude, start by writing down three things you are grateful for when you first wake up and three things you are grateful for that happened during your day before you go to bed. Stick with this practice and over time you will start to see shifts in your mindset.
What are some things you like to do to practice contentment? I’d love to hear in the comments!