The Holiday Hole

christmas piggy

“Tis the season.

Midnight Madness, Super Saver Sales, 30% off, a fat man in a red suit at the mall, and of course, Holiday music also comes to town.  For most of us, “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph” lift our spirits and put a bounce in our step.  For credit card companies though, the music is different. Beyond the evident carol loop playing on repeat, lies the sharp tones of slides and swipes, the percussion of button taps, and the vibrating strings of data transmissions. It’s a compilation of the magnificently mis-used plastic orchestra.  Together it creates a crescendo of temporary euphoric emotions with subtle and often ignored undertones of ominous consequence.

Tis the season alright.

I wish I had some sort of crazy awesome holiday planning advice that was going to be universally applicable to everyone…but that’s nearly impossible.  Largely because our holiday traditions can vary so greatly.

Some of us have to travel to see family.  Some have larger families than others.  Some families have a “1 gift secret Santa” tradition, where others buy gifts for everyone, and some don’t give gifts at all, making the gift of family the only requirement.  And not everyone celebrates Christmas.

RANT: I know I may be alienating some people by calling it Christmas…but that’s my tradition.  I grew up calling it Christmas, and Christmas holidays, and Christmas Parties, that’s never going to change.  You can call it whatever you want, but I’m going to call it Christmas. END RANT

If everyone’s Christmas holidays and traditions are different, then any advice that I provide you would have to be:

a) not generic, but;

b) concrete.

With that in mind, I’ve used one of the most generic, yet concrete and most over-used styles of blog advice-giving to transmit this information to you – The Top 5 List -

I love the irony.

Top 5 Considerations for Christmas Spending

#5.  The earlier you plan, the easier it is.

If you want to spend $10K on Christmas presents and Turtles chocolates…go for it.  But it will be easier to stomach the bill come January if you’ve been planning for it (and saving for it) all year.  The important part is to plan.  Racking up your credit card with the “I’ll pay it later” plan is a dangerous situation and could leave you still paying off Christmas at Easter.

#4.  Presents are just the beginning.

Along with this year’s “Cabbage Patch Kid” or media inflated “Tickle-Me-Elmo” auction price, you also need to consider additional co-star spending that will eat away at your wallet behind the scenes.  Things like travel expenses, different foods, extra “beverage” consumption and increased spending money (for those added impulse purchases, like the cute little red dress you “need” for the office party).  For most of us, these are all a part of the holiday routine. But if they’re not planned for, they will send you reaching for your credit card.  Make sure you include them in your budget as you figure out how much you want to spend on Christmas.

#3. Communicate with your partner.

When making your budget, if you are in a relationship where you are sharing the expenses, then you must do it together.  You both take part in the spending…you should both take part in the planning.  Agree on the plan.  And feel free to take it a step further – If your plans effect extended family members, let them know.

For example, this year, you can’t afford to buy for your brother’s kids.  Tell him.  He may not like it, but he’ll appreciate the heads up.

#2. Tradition has its place and purpose.

WTF does that mean? Traditions are a way of doing something over and over, creating a bond through shared experiences.  We do this with our family to strengthen the family bond. Why? Because family is important.  But what happens when a tradition causes intense hardship on one of the family members? What happens when it alienates someone?

Imagine the emotional turmoil (internal and/or expressed) when one family member can’t afford to participate in a tradition but does so by racking up credit card bills out of social obligation?  No wonder there’s increased “beverage” consumption over the holidays.

In this case, the family member’s financial stress is increased in order to not “rock the boat” of the social group. This can lead to resentment and certainly can add tension.  In short, it may actually help tear families apart, not bring them together.  So remember tradition’s place and purpose.  And if it doesn’t work for all parties involved….change it.  It’s your tradition.  Do what you want with it.  Maybe there are ways to uphold tradition by not breaking the bank.

#1.  Be Grateful.

We’ve been given so many good things in Western Society.  We have clean water, we aren’t starving, most years we have hockey.  With risk of sounding cliche… take a step back an consider all that you have in your life, rather than what you “have not.”  Take some time to really appreciate these things.  I promise you that you won’t regret this little refocus. Heck, if it works for you, perhaps you’ll be inspired to start a new tradition.

P.S.  If you didn’t click the cabage patch kid link above…you NEED to do so.  It’s hilarious, disturbing….and best of all, it’s our parents generation :-)  Cheers!