Peppermint Lattes, Christmas lights, Black Friday sales, oh my. They all send a signal to the brain that Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas is traditionally supposed to be a time of joy, celebration and family but I know from personal experience and from many others I've spoken to that Christmas can also be a time that you just want to escape from. So much so, that there are a lot of people that just ignore it all together!
November is financial literacy month, so we won't even touch the family dynamic side of why Christmas might not be your most favourite time of year. In fact, whole courses are designed around those topics so we couldn't cover it in a blog post anyway. 😉 What we will talk about is why Christmas gets so financially stressful and maybe even throw in a tip or two for reducing that stress. Because after all, if you do happen to have a family you mostly love and like to spend time with, you don't want to spend your Christmas or the potentially joyful days leading up to it in a state of anxiety, yelling at the person in the store who took the last Elf on the Shelf (or whatever the latest trend is).
So what is it about Christmas that takes normally mildly stressed out over money people and turns them into frenzied shoppers who all of a sudden feel the pressure to provide a completely monetary and gift laden experience for everyone in their lives? Like the only way we can show people how much we love them is through the giving of gifts.
It would be easy to blame society, commercialism, the rise of Santa Claus for marketing purposes. I remember getting the Sears catalogue and diligently flipping the pages to mark what I wanted. Writing to Santa that I'd been a good girl, so I deserved to get whatever I want. It wasn't just the Sears catalogue though, but some childhood traumas that shaped my belief system so that when I became a parent, I wanted to give my kids as many gifts as possible, so they knew they were good and deserved to get whatever they wanted. That wasn't a conscious thought at the time. It's only with reflection now that I can see what my motivation was. Although the marketing messages are loud and clear, show your love through these gifts, the underlying beliefs have to be there too.
It makes sense to me that in today's society of living stretched way beyond our means, Christmas would be extra anxiety ridden. Now, you not only have to pay the regular expenses, but depending on how many people you love, whether there are teachers, clients, service providers, the list can go on and on, you now have to find extra money to buy presents so people know you properly appreciate them.
Because if you don't, the potential is there that they will think you don't care. Right? And if they think you don't care, then what happens? They stop loving you. This is the thought process that used to go through my head. It will be different in yours. Or maybe it's the same.
Our family of origin has a massive impact on how we spend money because it forms the bulk of our beliefs, and if you remember from a prior blog post, our beliefs create our thoughts which create our actions. So, if you have a belief that you have to show your love, or earn people's love or they will leave you, you might get anxious. If you have a belief that, gifts are the only way to show people you love them, and you can't afford to buy presents, you might feel anxious. There is no way for me to possibly list all the possible variations of the beliefs you could have because everyone's are different.
Sometimes you mirror your parents' actions around money. Sometimes you do the exact opposite as a reaction to it. You know what I mean right? I won't ever be that way!
At the end of the day we don't want to get stuck on why. We only talk about it to create awareness, because awareness is the first step to change, if you want it.
So now that we've created some awareness around why we might overspend or get anxious spending at Christmas, what can you do about it?
Decide how much you have to spend on gifts this year. Once you know what you've got to work with, make a list of everyone you want to acknowledge at Christmas. Then you can see what is possible for each person.
Try a gift exchange, everyone gets a present but it's not as hard on the pocket book!
Try making your gifts. People really do appreciate homemade things. Especially things they can eat or drink.
Take some time to reflect on who you are buying for and why. Is there another way you can show your appreciation?
Write a letter. Take the time to handwrite a note of love or appreciation. Getting a piece of mail always puts a smile on my face. 🙂
Host a get together for your friends, you can see everyone, and spending time together helps your relationships.
Read the Five Love Languages - Some people feel loved and appreciated more in ways than through gifts, and it may give you ideas you can use!
Get a new perspective - volunteer at a homeless shelter with your family, there is nothing like helping less fortunate than us to give us some perspective about how lucky we generally.
Let's see how creative you can get this Christmas season!