It doesn’t matter whether the holiday season is rapidly approaching or already well behind us. Too many of us remain haunted by the ghost of Christmas presents, which have nothing to do with Dickens, and isn’t even unique to any religion. The ghost we’re talking about is that lingering mountain of bills, payment for all those gifts we gave to our loved ones (and often, in truth, to ourselves).
We can blame our admirably generous nature or the inherent greed of a materialistic marketplace. Who among us hasn’t teared up at the heartstring-tugging adverts on the television, or felt guilty because we aren’t able to buy our beloved the kind of grand gift the jewelers and car companies are presenting as the perfect present? And how could we resist? How could we ever buy our beloved a mere Lexus, for example, when it has been drilled into our heads that she would really prefer an Audi? How could we dare to proclaim our undying love without proving it with a gift that is, according to the adverts, forever? We know all too well that we shouldn’t make the holidays about material things. We’ve listened as our loved ones told us that no gift was necessary, or at least that we shouldn’t go overboard. We almost believed those things, too…almost.
Oh, the pressure!
For all too many people it is very difficult to stand up to the cultural and personal pressures to spend, spend, spend at Yuletide. In fact a quarter of people surveyed in late 2015 by the Government-backed National Debtline and Money Advice Trust said that due to outside coercion, they felt they were at risk of spending more than planned on festive celebrations and gifts. Parents in particular feel the pressure, with their children being the main reason for blowing their budgets. It doesn’t really matter whether our overindulgence is a passing down of our generation’s own expectations of instant gratification or a pure altruism, by which we genuinely want nothing more than to please our children during this special holiday season. The ultimate effect – and cost – is the same, and getting higher all the time.
Though kids were the main source of the urge to spend, shopping promos and subtle and sometimes even unintended pressure from partners, relatives, and friends have also played a part in many people’s budget-busting holiday indulgences. We have heard, been beckoned to, and heeded the siren song, and now we have that stack of letters that the post delivers or that appear with increasing frequency in our email inbox, all with one phrase in common – Due on or before… . Now, we face the task of paying for having ignored the admonitions internal and external, and making a vow not to go overboard next year.
There’s always next year…
Perhaps next holiday season, we’ll pay more attention to the adverts that are truly endearing or funny, rather than the ones that endeavour to make us judge our benevolence according to how much we spend. We may even be able to avoid running our credit cards up to (and sometimes, past) their limits, so we don’t have to plow the depths of our resources and come up with ways to pay for our indulgences. It always seems that the more creative we are in paying for our indulgences, the more we end up paying. And the difference is quite often enough to more than offset anything we might have saved by taking advantage of seasonal sales and promotions.
Although it can be enormously difficult to resist the many pressures to overindulge during the holidays, it is doable. It takes no small amount of mental discipline and beyond that, a healthy dose of creativity to find alternative (read: cheaper) ways to celebrate the holidays. Making a pact with family and friends to put a strict spending limit on gifts, or to forego gift exchanges altogether, works for many people. If spending limits seem too calculated and un-holiday-like and you don’t want to give up gifting entirely, concentrate on inexpensive stocking stuffers or give homemade gifts. Or do your splurging on a big holiday feast and let everyone contribute a little.
Depending upon when you’re reading this, it may or may not too late to do anything about Christmas Present. But there’s always Christmas Future, and you can use every Christmas as an opportunity to take stock of your values and renew your focus on the things – and people – that really matter.
This is a sponsored post.