|MOSAIC November 2011
Christmas is a time for giving. It is a time for thinking of others. A time for expressing the joy and hope we have inside because of God’s perfect gift to us.
Gift giving, holiday parties and family gatherings are all good things – but when they become the focus of the season, many people experience stress, guilt, and pressure to spend what they do not have – as well as the debt that follows. With the Canadian Debt-to-Income ratio hitting 150% early this year, many people are still paying off last Christmas (if not the one before too).
Somehow, we have bought into the cultural lie that we have to spend a lot for Christmas gifts to be socially acceptable. There are now guidelines on who and how much to buy for everyone from your boss to your mailman.
Sadly, many feel that even if they are completely broke, they can still spend thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts— and believe it is not only their right to do so, but that they are obligated to do it. For those living on tight budgets, who have been as careful as they know how to be, and have a Budget or Spending Plan – the pressure to overspend at Christmas is still there.
And it is not just money that we overspend. There is also the mounting pressure to attend every event, party, rehearsal, and gathering. Saying yes to these will surely over tax our time and emotions. At the very time of the year when relationships could and should be of highest priority, over-activity and overspending combine to become a toxic potion that effect our relationships with God and each other.
The Christmas story begs us to see it as far more than a peak event in December that is soon followed by the reality filled with bills we cannot pay. We should be celebrating the greatest gift of all – God with us. But it should not come with any more debt – other than the debt of love to God and each other.
Tips to having a Debt Free Christmas
- Make a commitment to NO NEW DEBT at Christmas – Overspending increases stress, not joy, to the season.
- Set a budget for your holiday spending and stick to it! Make a list of everyone you are buying a gift for and what you can afford to spend – and don’t go shopping without the list. You will be far less likely to buy on impulse.
- Save BEFORE you Shop – Many people find it is necessary to open a completely separate account for this purpose. You can set yourself up to have an automatic transfer of funds to a savings account and come Christmas time you’ll have money ready for shopping.
- Pay Cash / Avoid Credit – One of the best ways to stick to a budget is to pay cash for everything. Take out the total dollars you can afford to spend over the holidays. Put the money in an envelope and pay for all your gifts from that single source.
- Shop Early – Last-minute shopping can be expensive. Stores may be out of the items on your list. When you are tired and frustrated, it is easy to make costly impulse buys just to cross that name off your list.
- Be Creative – There are a lot of ways to give without spending any or very little money. Handmade crafts, cookies or jars of preserves are always appreciated. You can give your time/service (babysitting, cleaning, home repair, etc.) Use reward points gift cards (movie pass or restaurant). For those hard to shop relatives who do not need anything – consider giving a gift in their name of a goat or cow through World Vision or Samaritan’s purse or another mission that is important to them.
- Get out of the house & enjoy the season. There are lots of lights, community events, carol sings and more that you can enjoy for free with your family that focus on the season and not your wallet.
- Model a sane schedule – Avoid overtaxing your health and relationships by limiting how many commitments you make. And when you do feel stressed and pressured to do more – stop and take a deep breath. Do what really needs to be done and then choose to take the second deep breath of God’s Spirit. Take this moment to reflect on your perspective and ask God’s Spirit to guard your heart and renew a right spirit in you. Bill Bright used to call this “Spiritual Breathing.” Remember – Christmas is not about the gifts, it is about “The Gift” to each one of us – one that costs us nothing but cost God everything.