It’s time people! Whether you like it or not, the Holiday season will be upon us in the blink of an eye. Are you financially prepared?
“The wise man plans and saves for the future, but the foolish person squanders what he has.”
Today I will outline two basic concepts. One will touch on saving for a “traditional spending” Christmas, and the other will challenge you to do what we do… Forget commercial Christmas and develop your own idea of giving for the season.
Because it makes more sense, I will spend most of my time on the latter.
Two very differing views toward Christmas
1. Participating in the modern gift exchange culture as we know it.
The following represents the “normal” point-of-view in our culture:
- Wait until December
- Go buy a ton of gifts for friends, family, and coworkers — on credit, no less
- Attend a bunch of Christmas parties
- Exchange gifts at each one
What’s my opinion? Don’t participate. Modern gift exchanges in our culture reek of binging, excess, and indulgence. If you must participate, make sure you start saving now… You’ll need it.
If you are firmly entrenched in this camp, then create a separate fund for Holiday spending and contribute to it for the next few months so you can fund your upcoming retail extravaganza. This will help you avoid using your credit card as much as if you did nothing to prepare.
Instead of simply following the status quo, why not start thinking outside the box. Here are some reasons why:
- You don’t really have any money. If you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance that you’re in debt. Stop pretending you have more money that you really do, and use any extra available funds to move toward financial freedom. Once you’re free from the bondage of debt, then go buy gifts with money that you actually have!
- Most Americans don’t NEED more stuff. In most cases, our needs our well provided for, so Christmas is (more often than not) all about want want want. If that’s the case with you or your family, consider using your money for something more useful this year — like paying off your debt.
If you’re still intent on giving gifts, read on…
2. Participating in gift exchanges on your own terms.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Break free from a culture of temptation. Live outside the box and exercise the lost arts of creativity and resourcefulness.
Here are several ways for you to change your approach toward gift giving for Christmas 2009:
- Greatly limit your participating in gift exchanges this year. My wife and I have done this for the last several years. We give sensible gifts to our nieces and nephews, participate in one $20 gift exchange with each side of our family, and limit our spending on each other to $50.
- Communicate with your loved ones. We’ve made clear to our family and friends that we’re not planning on giving gifts, and that we expect nothing in return. Were they upset? No. Quite the contrary. Once we spoke up, it turned out that most everyone agreed. We all saved money and focused instead on simply spending time with each other.
- Make homemade cards and gifts. Instead of feeding the corporate consumerism monster, consider a homemade gift. Aside from being a great way to save money, boost creativity, and build your self-reliance, it’s also a great family-building exercise. Some of my best memories of Christmas-time are of making homemade Christmas ornaments, decorations, and gifts with my family when I was growing up. Give it a shot… I promise you won’t regret it.
- Offer your services as a gift. Don’t have the time to make cards and gifts this year? Make a few simple coupons for your services and give them away to loved ones. Often times they need your expertise way more than another tie, pair of socks, or a gift certificate. Are you a computer technician? Give people coupons for a free computer clean-up. Are you a massage therapist? Give people coupons for one free massage. Are you the ring master at a circus? Give people free passes to the show. You get the point. Not only will you be helping them out, but you’ll also create an opportunity to spend time together.
Don’t limit yourself
One more thing… Don’t limit your use of this approach to Christmas. Use it for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. To give you an example, my wife just made “Tub Crayons” as a birthday gift for our friends two year old. The recipe was pulled from the Dining on a Dime Cook Book: 1000 Money Saving Recipes and Tips (which we HIGHLY recommend). It was both inexpensive and simple to prepare.
Don’t be selfish… Share your ideas with us!
I’ve just offered up a few idea here, but don’t limit yourself to what I’ve mentioned. Consider your family and friends, and think about what you can do to make this year extra special for them.
I encourage you to save your money and be creative. Make people dinner, write them a song/poem, or offer to babysit. Instead of spending your time shopping for them, spend your time coming up with a creative way to show them that you love them. I can promise you this… They’ll remember it much more fondly than they would another $15 tie from Walmart!