Saturday, December 6, 2014

Do Christmas Different

by Andrew Cromwell

‘Tis the season! If you haven’t noticed, we are in the throes of the most anticipated time of the year. It also can lead to the most dreaded time of the year. No, I’m not talking about the Christmas season; I’m talking about the spending season.

The spending season is anticipated by all of our friendly retailers who have made it a point to offer us “the best discounts of the year” so that we can buy, buy, buy. It is also anticipated by those of us who love to shop, particularly those who love to spave (that’s short for spend to save). 

Right now all of the stores are full of people busy purchasing gifts for friends and family. And, let’s face it, gifts for ourselves — because who can resist the best sales of the year and who knows better what you need, than you?

So many of us drink the kool-aid and with eyes glazed over (from the shopping, not from the spiked eggnog), we frantically swipe our little pieces of plastic (or press our little thumbs to our spiffy new iphones) as we sip our Starbucks (five-bucks) until we collapse in exhaustion. 

The problem is that all this joyful spending leads to the most dreaded time of the year. The dread comes when that little envelope arrives in the mail in January listing all of our purchases. We are reminded that all good things must come to an end, and that everyone pays the tax man, or in this case, the credit card man (or woman). And as we read through the thickest bill of the year, we wonder if it was all worth it.

This Christmas, I want to challenge you to be different. Trade in that dreaded January ritual for a change. Choose not to get caught up in the shopping frenzy, because very few of us really need more stuff after all.

Here are a few ideas that might help you during this season:

First, don’t look at the ads. I mean it. Just don’t look at them. If they come in the paper, throw them away (or burn them if you’re a pyro like me). If they arrive in the mail, put them in the round bin. If they pop-up on your computer, smash it. Ok, don’t smash it, but have you ever considered getting a pop-up blocker? Don’t watch the commercials on TV. This step is based on the simple truth, out of sight, out of mind. You can help curb your appetite for spending by trimming your advertising intake.

Second, shorten your lists. I’m serious. Cut your gift list in half. So what if you don’t get little Jimmy 10 gifts and instead only get him 5? And really, what is going to happen if you drop Great Uncle Nate from your list altogether? This by itself will cut down on your spending and your stress. And if you feel really badly about it, just write them a note that says, “I’m spending less this Christmas so my gift this year is to simply say you matter to me and I love you. Merry Christmas!” 

Third, set a budget for your spending. I know this is unheard of, because most of us consider the budget to be the credit limit on our card. We just keep spending until the card stops working. But here’s a novel idea. Choose how much money you can actually afford to spend on Christmas gifts and ONLY spend that much. 

This Christmas, do things differently! Instead of shopping, spend time with your family playing board games or driving up to the snow for the day. You just might discover that this season really is special. 

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