The Christmas season feels amazing. The warm comforts of Christmas music, sugar cookies, the twinkle of lights, and gathering of friends and family fill us with joy. It brings out our inner child. The wonder of Christmas is a feeling that stays with us as we reminisce about or magical Christmas childhood memories.
In a practical sense, the Christmas season also brings stress. Financial stress tops the list. It’s the elephant in the room tip toeing around trying not to be seen and risk dampening the Christmas spirit.
Creating the perfect Christmas season for your loved ones can be a tall order. Certain members of the family carry the stress more than others, covering expenses, doing the errands for gift purchasing, party hosting, dinner serving etc. The pressure to overspend beyond our means at Christmas can be a hard thing to overcome.
A recent Capital Counselor article on Jaw-Dropping Christmas Spending Statistics for 2021, indicates Christmas debt statistics report 46% of Millennials and parents with kids under 18 are most willing to take on debt due to gift shopping. Furthermore, citing an average of 1 in 10 people admitting to returning their gifts to the store, and an estimated $15.2 billion in unwanted presents. That adds up to a whole lot of unnecessary debt and stress.
Taking on debt for Christmas and carrying the cost of that debt into the New Year is not good for anyone’s financial plan. It’s sabotaging your financial health.
What can we do about it? How do we avoid over-doing it but still create a magical Christmas? Let’s look at breathing new life into some traditional ideas that can make a resurgence. Sometimes everything old is new again.
The pandemic has taught us many things over the past couple of years. One of the biggest take-away’s at the core of everything, is that nothing is more important than spending time with our loved ones.
The pandemic has taught us many things over the past couple of years. One of the biggest take-away’s at the core of everything, is that nothing is more important than spending time with our loved ones. We can fill our lives with mountains of material things but at the end of the day what we value most is time together and memories shared.
So why not carry this lesson with us into the Christmas season and give ourselves a reprieve from the risk of overdoing it financially over the holidays? Some of the best ideas I’ve seen for alternatives to expensive big box gifts, that focus more on small local purchases, budgeting, limiting debt and emphasize the value of creating memories over material items include:
- Agree on a budget and lower the dollar value for everyone in the gift exchange
- Exchange names rather than buying for all members
- Purchase gift certificates from local businesses rather than big box stores
- Make a donation in someone’s name to a cause that is near and dear to them
- Instead of buying for each other, chose to donate as a group to a worthy cause you all agree on
- Attend a community event or movie night together with low costs and opportunities to make memories together
- Make home made gifts like jams, jewelry, homemade meals
- Do a cookie exchange instead of gifts
- Share family recipes
- Share family photos and write down memories to go along with it
- Frame or scrapbook artwork made by children
- Write your life story to share with children and grandchildren
Whether you love any of these ideas above or not I’m sure you’ll agree there are many things we can all do to reduce the commercialism of Christmas and give our budgets a break and reduce the purchasing of unused items. If you head into the New Year without the baggage of Christmas debt, and with a renewed focus on memories and the precious nature of time with loved ones, you will no doubt be happy you made this choice.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!
Column appeared in This Month in Elgin Magazine, December 2021 edition
Stephanie Farrow, BA., Certified Financial Planner, Stephanie has over 28 years' experience in the financial services industry, a diploma in Financial Planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning and Certified Financial Planner designation. Stephanie has been writing a financial column for local business magazine Elgin This Month/This Month in Elgin since 2010. Stephanie and her husband own Farrow Financial Services Inc. About our Farrow Financial Team.