Black Friday sales have happened. Warehouse sales are ongoing and Christmas shopping is in full swing.
I read a quote recently to the effect of “don’t go into debt to show how much you love someone.”
Many of us fall into that trap.
We mistakenly figure the bigger the gift the deeper the love.
Or the more packages under the tree the better.
Or the more you spent the better the Christmas.
None of that is true, of course, but it is easy to get sucked into the vortex of spending.
It comes from a place of good intention, which is to make people happy.
Money is one of those issues that is just not really supposed to be discussed sort of like politics and religion.
It is incredibly hard to say the words “I can’t afford it.”
There’s a feeling of failure that comes with that.
You wonder why everyone else seems to have money to spend but you don’t. You question your habits, your life choices, your worth.
No good can ever come from comparing your life to anyone else’s but that doesn’t mean we don’t do it from time to time.
Leading up to the holidays, there are going to be constant demands/requests for your time and money.
Charities, staff parties requiring pot luck or cookie exchanges, Secret Santa events, parties and dinners every week.
All of that costs money. It costs money for the gas, the ticket, the parking, the gift and a possible new outfit.
Nobody wants to be a Grinch or hide away for a month, so we have to set boundaries.
What I have learned is that it's okay to say “I just don’t have the money.” No need to make it a woe is me declaration just a statement of fact.
Sometimes, if someone suggests a pricey restaurant, I will suggest somewhere cheaper or suggest coffee instead of lunch. You still get to socialize and have an outing, but without the financial heartburn that could follow.
People are usually so generous they will demand to pick up the tab. While this is very kind, it can make you feel like a bit of a loser. It doesn’t feel great to be paid for.
I think a great gift to each other, this year, would be the gift of choice.
Ask your friend: “Do you want to go out for dinner? You pick the place.”
Go for lunch instead of dinner (usually cheaper), use coupons, go to the show on a discount day.
Think up an experience to share rather than giving a gift in a box.
Walk around looking at Christmas lights. Most towns have beautiful outdoor displays. Bring a thermos of hot cocoa, sit on a bench and chat.
Last year, when money was especially tight, I wrote personal letters to my friends telling them how much they mean to me, remembering adventures we had in the last year, listing their admirable qualities. To a person, they all said it was one of their favourite gifts.
If you are giving gifts to someone you know is struggling you can never go wrong with a gift card for gas, groceries or a haircut.
Offer to babysit a child or a pet, drive the person to an appointment.
In those cases, you are giving the two most precious gifts time and yourself.
My point is that none of us knows what situation another is facing so this Christmas maybe listen to what they are not saying.
“I really can’t make it to the party” may not mean “I don’t want to go." It might mean “I just don’t have the money to go.”
Take people at their word. Don’t pressure anyone to do anything.
Share if you can. Give if you can, but not until it hurts!