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Jenniffer's Journey:

Don’t Be Blue This Holiday Season

This past week, I participated in a Summit webinar on mindful holiday spending. There were a lot of really great tips and ideas presented during the lunchtime webinar, but a couple of themes really resonated with me as we approach the holiday season. But I’m conflicted on how to convert those themes into actions this season. Allow me to expand.

The first exercise in the webinar was for each participant to envision the holiday season. That is, what do you want to do and how do you want to feel? I have a lot of things that I’d really like to do this holiday season, but for me, it was much quicker to identify what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to overspend. Overspend on gifts, food for feasting, and activities to do between December 24 and January 2. And by answering that first question, I easily answered the second question - I don’t want to feel guilty come January when the egg nog has worn off, the left overs are gone, the post-holiday sales are over and the credit card bill comes. That is one ghost of Christmases past that I’d like to keep in the past.

In the next exercise, we were challenged to change the expectations surrounding holiday spending. That is, let your friends and family know that there are financial goals that you are working toward, and that will guide how much you should spend this holiday season. Fortunately for me, not a single family member or friend hasn’t had to sit through me going on and on and on……AND ON about Project Money for the past 6 months. So, it’s pretty clear that I have some intense financial goals this holiday season. But, does that mean that I spend nothing on gifts or spend less than in year’s past? Or something in between?

So, you ask, why am I conflicted? Seems pretty easy – don’t overspend and have a guilt-free conversation with family and friends about Christmas being leaner this year, right? Consider this: as of this writing, it is not even Thanksgiving and the Christmas decorations are on display in the stores, pre-Black Friday deals are already out, and 94.9 FM is already playing Christmas music. You can’t help but get into the holiday spirit. And in this country, with holiday spirit comes spending money on Christmas gifts. In fact, as I type this, Ashley is sitting across the living room from me working on homework and as a Black Friday ad comes on TV, she tells me that we should go Black Friday shopping again because everything is “so cheap”. My response….”no thanks”. To which I am the immediate recipient of an exaggerated sigh and a saucey “Why!?” Yeah, these guilt-free conversations are going to go great. Bah humbug!

For me, the holiday spirit is much more than spending a lot of money on really great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. It’s quality time with family and friends, without the expectation that that time automatically comes with a gift. Why do we have to spend to share? Can’t we give in other ways? But how do I show up to family and friend gatherings where everyone is bringing a gift? Do you feel my conflict now? Am I going to be THAT person? 

The short answer is yes. This year, I am going to embrace expectation changes and take a piece of advice from Buddy the Elf – the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.  

The Best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear

For my friends and family reading this, don’t worry, I’m not going to make you a mix tape singing all of my favorite Christmas songs from the 80’s. I reserve this angelic voice only for the shower (ahem). I think what Buddy the Elf really meant was that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is not to head out at 1:00 AM on Black Friday, shop until you drop and charge until you max out. Instead, it’s to share a more meaningful gift. For some – like Buddy the Elf - it’s singing. For me it’s making more personal gifts. Ones that you won’t be able to find on Amazon during their Cyber Monday sneak peek. And ones that I don’t have to break the bank – or in this case crash the credit union – to buy. And finally, ones that I am not stressing over buying because the recipient already has everything he wants and needs nothing. 

So here is this week’s financial fun fact as you head into the holiday season:  when thinking about spending money on holiday gifts, think about this:  Why do you want to give a gift? Who do you want to give to? How will it make you feel? If you answer any of these questions with “I don’t know”, or if you don’t have fully joyous responses to each one, then take the stress out of the holidays and replace it with meaning. Set expectations and a budget and stick to it. Here’s a copy of a great holiday spending worksheet to help keep you on track: https://www.summitcreditunion.com/content/docs/Holiday%20Budget%20worksheet.xls And then, in the words of Buddy the Elf, you won’t feel like such a cotton headed ninny muggins come January when the credit card bill(s) arrive.

I’ll be spending this year’s Black Friday at home and will be offline on Cyber Monday. Unless I get an email that Starbucks has half off mochas. After all, that’s a gift any time of the year. 


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