Tis the season to be spending?
DPER Life Center
Spending too much during the Christmas (Holiday) Season has become a national tradition. Borrowing for gifts and even for festive food is on the rise. Even worrying about how much we will spend or overspend on the seasons gifts and activities is on the rise. You would think that after the longest period of economic challenges that most of us have felt in our lifetimes we'd be budgeting more effectively, shopping smarter, and sticking to our budgets. Actually official figures suggest we're sabotaging ourselves instead, and there's been a dramatic increase in consumer borrowing.
There are various reasons why we feel the pressure to spend including children, the urgency of Black Friday and similar sales and offers, and peer pressure from partners and other family members. To a lesser extent, media and advertising promoting 'perfect families and Christmases' are said to play a part. These are a few of the factors driving us to overspend on Christmas gifts and food but what we can do about it?
Panic buying is one of the biggest risks to our budgets. Feeling rushed or overwhelmed can lead us to make snap decisions and take the easiest option rather than the smartest option, and it ends up costing far more than we'd planned. To avoid this, take a deep breath, calm down, check your budget and make a shopping list for gifts and for food. If you feel panicky again at any point, go back to the list. You'll probably need a lot less food than you think as well.
One of the biggest problems is we try to make kids happy. For me and maybe for you the festive season is all about kids, and it can be a magical time where we make lots of happy memories. However, kids aren't stupid and they usually can and do understand that money is not infinite. So prioritize your budget to spend more on the children than the adults, but balance this against the knowledge that overspending in the short term can be bad for the whole family in the medium and long term too.
Peer Influence is a third concern stretching our budget. Family and friends combined with the advertising driven multiple media images of perfect families with perfect homes and armfuls of gifts leave us feeling wanting in comparison. Our own lives are messy in their unedited form. Compared to the perfect images we see around us on TV and Facebook, we can feel very shabby. But it isn't REAL. Shifting your focus can help you to prioritize, and is more likely to bring lasting happiness in a way that material goods cannot. You can't buy a good Christmas, you can only make one, and who cares what other people think?
Wanting the perfect Christmas is also linked to another type of peer influence, namely, 'everyone else is overspending this year, so I can too'. And after all, "I/they deserve only the best." But it's not really about 'deserving' anything, is it? Either you can afford something or you can't, however entitled you or anyone else might feel. If you can't afford it, you can't afford it. There's nothing wrong with buying the standard version of something, if that's what your budget allows, rather than going deluxe. There's no harm in cutting back a bit, you'll survive.
Here's wishing you a rich and affordable Christmas, and a more financially stable New Year. If you or a loved one is having a difficult time this holiday season please don't hesitate to give us a call at the DPER Life Center. (818) 521-6477. We offer affordable counseling to seniors and participating churches and most insurances are excepted.