Less About Spending, More About Giving

Less About Spending, More About Giving

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! With lights and decorations up in the stores, since August, prepping us for the ensuing shopping frenzy, it is obvious that Christmas is here… even though the weather says otherwise. 

Christmas can be a stressful time of the year for every family member in some way or another. Parents wonder how they are going to buy everything on their kids’ lists, while kids wonder where the Elf on the Shelf® will appear next so they can report to Santa. So how can we help lessen the stress that we all succumb to at some point during the holidays?

For parents, the best plan for avoiding a stressful Christmas is to pay for Christmas in cash no matter how much you plan to spend. In theory, that sounds like a great plan! Practically, though, maybe not so much.

According to an article by Arielle Vogel with Crown Financial Ministries, “This year, 35% of Americans will spend $750 or more on Christmas presents, while only 60% of Americans have $500 in a savings account. This means that the majority of them will rely on their credit cards to buy Christmas presents. Don’t fall into this trap! This combination of high spending and low savings leads to debt. And sadly, many Americans will have to face overwhelming credit card debt in January.”

So how exactly does the “less stress” come into play you might ask? Here are some simple and practical tips:

  • Decide on your budget, and promise yourself to stick to it
  • Make a list of all the people that you will buy for, and what you will spend on each. Remember it’s ok to not buy for everyone you know!
  • Keep it simple. Hundreds of thoughtful and memorable homemade gift ideas can be found on websites such as Pinterest.® Making these gifts as a family with your kids can also create traditions and memories that last a lifetime, not to mention having fun!
  • Shop around. Do your research for the best prices and deals and make sure to explore online and local stores.
  • Pay for everything in cash to avoid the certain January “opening-the-credit-card-bill” anxiety.

These simple decisions, made before the buying frenzy begins, will take much of the stress away from the Christmas holiday. 

Also, allowing children to contribute to the preparation of and giving of gifts will, also, reinforce the real meaning of Christmas. Traditionally, most of us are raised that by being “good for goodness’ sake” will reap us more presents on Christmas morning. As parents, we contribute to that thinking as we heap more and more in our shopping carts in an effort to make our kids “feel the love” on Christmas day. 

In the midst of all the holiday chaos, stop and ask yourself - is this what Christmas should truly be about? Looking back at my now grown kids, I wish we had decided to put more emphasis on Christ and His birth rather than a commercialized Santa and his elves. Every year it seemed we had to do more than we did the year before. This created a terrible trap that in some ways continues in our family even today.

Look back over the tips and ideas shared above. Create a realistic spending plan (AKA “budget”) that you can pay for with cash. Use every opportunity to do less monetary gift giving this year, while conscientiously and intentionally weaving in opportunities to give from your family’s collective heart. 

The truth and very essence of Christmas is that God gave His most loved possession, Jesus, and we all need much more of that kind of giving.

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At First United, we believe that in order to truly spend life wisely, we must have a holistic approach to life that encompasses faith, financial well-being, wellness, and personal development.

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