Are you stressed out about the holidays?
It’s hard not to get stressed out just a little bit this time of year, especially if you’re struggling with your finances. With countless gatherings to attend and gifts to buy for loved ones, this time of year can be very difficult to handle when you’ve been fighting just to pay the bills each month.
I read a post recently from a fellow debt relief customer who is in just that kind of situation. She is extremely stressed out because Christmas is getting closer every day, but due to some unexpected expenses, they don’t have much money to fill the space below the Christmas tree this year. A comment was made by a fellow blogger in which she encouraged her to “let go of the expectations that are holding her hostage.”
The post, and the comment brought back very vivid memories of the first few Christmases that Vonnie and I were enrolled in our debt management program. The holidays were the time of year when our credit cards would get their most action. With zero financial responsibility, having money saved for gifts was completely out of the question. A tight budget combined with having all our lines of credit closed made for a very stressful holiday season as we struggled to find a way to purchase presents for our children, each other, and our extended families.
As alluded to by the comment, the problem was with our expectations.
Our ability to purchase (or more correctly, charge) gifts had dramatically changed, however our expectations towards having a tree overflowing with gifts on Christmas morning had not. We also still expected to be able to walk into family gatherings with our arms filled with gifts. Not being able to do so was a pill of harsh reality that was very difficult to swallow.
We did the best we could, buying several less expensive presents for the kids to make the tree look as full as possible. I remember Vonnie and I looking at each other anxiously as the kids sat down excitedly to open their gifts. We knew in our hearts that we should be ecstatic and thankful that we were able to provide gifts at all. We knew that presents under the tree should not be the focus of the season. Yet we also knew that through the eyes of two young children, it was all about new toys.
I asked my kids to think back over the last few years and tell me what they got for Christmas each year. They could list some of the gifts, but couldn’t tell me when they got them with any accuracy. I then asked them if they thought over the years they were getting less gifts, more gifts or about the same. They both responded that they thought the gifts had been the same year to year. Which is completely untrue.
We now spend a fraction of what we used to on Christmas gifts for our kids.
I challenged myself to come up with some of my top Christmas memories:
- Having a Christmas tree topple over on me with our living room curtains wide open in full view of the Schwans food delivery person walking up the driveway. He was laughing uncontrollably when we opened the door.
- After telling my mom we weren’t coming to Christmas at her house because we didn’t feel comfortable leaving town, I, my son, and a very pregnant Vonnie surprised my mom and dad by showing up on Christmas Eve.
- Vonnie and I’s first Christmas together as husband and wife
I easily came up with a dozen more, but my point is, none of my favorite memories involved a gift.
Before you go any further with your holiday shopping and preparation, do yourself a favor, sit down and align your expectations of the season to your finances and adjust accordingly. If you’re stressed out about money and gifts, you’re stressing out about nothing.
Relax, enjoy the people around you and make memories.
Happy Holidays from Team EOD.