Every year it seems that Christmas becomes more and more commercialized. The local stores were stocking Christmas things before Halloween and we have been listening to Christmas commercials since right after Halloween. The message: Buy, buy, buy. If you don’t spend a lot of money on your loves ones you won’t be showing them your love. If you don’t spend money on the newspaper delivery person, the hair stylist, or the grocery person who packs your bags, then you’re not a very nice person. There are even lists that you can fill out (with reminders) as to whom you must give a Christmas gift in case you forget those people you only see for a few minutes several times a year. It’s all geared toward spending your money.
In this economy with such high unemployment (where I live it’s still above 9% and that doesn’t count all of the people who have completely used up their unemployment benefits and have fallen off the graph of numbers that is officially reported to and by the White House or whose bosses have reduced their hours because they can’t affort the health insurance required for full-time employees) I hear of people who are completely stressed out because they don’t have money to spend on Christmas. Hear me on this. IT’S OK to NOT SPEND A BUNCH OF MONEY! Simplify your life!
Going into debt for Christmas?
There are two rules to follow with regard to money.
- Don’t go into debt to give Christmas presents.
- Don’t feel pressured (by TV and radio commercials, your kids, or your friends and their spending habits) to spend money you do not have, or can’t afford to spend because you have bills to pay.
Changing our Perspectives
In our home, we have been teaching our children that Christmas is not about receiving, it’s about giving. Some people think, “Yeah, right. How do you teach a child that?” Well, we started early, but it’s never too late to start with that philosophy. I really hate the fact that kids are taught to think only of themselves and what they want. Making a list of 40 things for Santa just presents selfishness and we’re teaching our kids that “I am more important than anyone else. Only I matter. I’m the only one I have to think about. I want… I want… I want…” And then if they don’t get what they want, there’s a lot of drama. This “gimme” attitude just isn’t attractive in anyone. Yes, it’s nice to receive gifts. But, it isn’t the end of the world if we receive something simple instead of that diamond necklace we’ve been eyeing in the jewelry store or that $500 electronic device we’ve been seeing on QVC. And receiving it with graciousness shows class. It should never be a demand, an expectation or a requirement that someone give us gifts… and especially NOT that they go into debt to do so. We need to change our perspective and our kids’ perspectives.
A couple of years ago our budget was extremely tight. Our kids chose to exchange gifts. I mean exchange as in, “What do I own that I know he would really like? I’ll wrap that up and give it to him.” They actually got into it and each gave the other a very nice gift. Neither of them gave the other something they didn’t care about. That came from the heart because it meant that they were chosing to give up something for the other person. They put the other person before themselves. And, they were excited to have the other one open the gift! Another thing we did was to make gifts. That also came from the heart because it took time and effort. We let our kids know that, “the budget is very tight, so this year let’s focus on doing things for each other rather than on spending a lot of money.” Because of the way we approached it, our kids understood and participated in a big way. It isn’t that they didn’t receive gifts. They just didn’t focus on writing an expensive “I want” list. Instead, their focus was on what they could do for others. It was a pretty special Christmas.
What are are a couple things that can be done to help change our perspectives, take the stress out of Christmas, and teach our kids that spending and going into debt for Christmas is not a good thing?
- Take your family to a homeless shelter and volunteer your services for a few hours. Serve a meal, talk with people, and begin to realize that these are real people who each have a story. They need someone’s help, someone’s hand on their shoulder, and a friendly smile that doesn’t look down on them because of their circumstances. Believe me, that experience along with a good, honest conversation about your blessings (not in a preaching way, but with an attitude of thankfulness for the blessings you have) will help change their perspective. It may even be the beginnings of developing an attitude of looking past themselves and their own circumstance to help those who are less fortunate.
- Be honest with your kids if things are a little tight. It won’t hurt them. Have them be involved in coming up with fun ideas that don’t cost a lot of money. Let them be involved in making Christmas a fun, family time. A child who learns that money doesn’t grow on trees, we have to work hard for it, and we have to be responsible by paying our bills first and limiting our spending will be much better off (and learn a valuable life lesson) than one whose parents indulge him in everything and go into debt to do so.
Even if your budget isn’t tight and you can afford to spend a lot of money, take this opportunity to teach your children a valuable life lesson. Take the stress out of your Christmas this year. Simplify. Get your kids involved. Create new free or low-cost traditions. It’s the traditions and fun family time together that they will remember the rest of their lives, not gifts that break after a while or that they’ll get bored with in several months.
Make this Christmas something special, something about people and time together, not about things.
With that said, I want to say that Christmas will be what it was meant to be if we celebrate the ultimate Christmas gift… Jesus Christ and His birth over 2,000 years ago. Too many people don’t want to acknowledge Jesus Christ and refer to Christmas as “the holidays” or x-mas. But, Christmas is here because of Christ. Christ was the beginning of Christmas and we still celebrate Him today. So, even though I hope you have a happy holiday season with all of it’s celebrations between now and New Years’ Day, I wish you a…