Stay Focused on What Matters This Holiday Season

Debt, Family, Gift Giving

December 03, 2020

The holiday season is here, which also means it’s the time of year when there is a dangerous tug to splurge.


Every year I advise/nag/beg you not to overspend. But this year I know the urge comes from a different place. We have been through so much. And the news that the winter may be a rough one as we wait for final approval (and distribution) of a vaccine, means we’ve got to dig even deeper into our resilience reserve.


It’s exhausting. And looks like it may remain so for at least a few more months.


Given that backdrop, retail therapy is tempting and it’s so easy to tell ourselves it is more than okay because it comes deep in our heart-- we want to give to others.


I get it. And yet, I am still going to ask you to fight the urge if you’re still hard at work making sure you and your family is financially secure, because that is the ultimate gift. Please don’t spend dollars on gifts if those dollars can be used to build an emergency fund, pay down credit card debt, or help you make more progress with saving for retirement.


I know so many of you have done a fantastic job this year making hard and healthy financial choices. One of the silver linings of this year is how households have focused more on essential spending. I was heartened to read that the average credit card balance is 10% lower than it was at the beginning of the year. That’s moving in the right direction!


Please don’t lose that financial freedom momentum.


And don’t fall into the trap that you “should” or “must” buy gifts. Who in your life would truly expect that if they understood you are laser-focused on paying off credit card bills and building up your emergency savings?


Worried about disappointing young kids? Hmm. I didn’t say don’t give gifts. I asked you to not buy gifts you can’t afford. For years, KT and I have only exchanged home-made gifts. Because that means more than anything, and it puts the focus on what matters to us-- connection. Which doesn’t have to cost a thing.


If you’re not the crafty sort, I bet you can think of all sorts of wonderful gift certificates you can create. Gift a kid two weeks off of a household chore. Make a formal gift of a shared activity they love and need you to join in on. Longer bike ride adventures on the weekend. A promise to drive to the skate park across town more frequently. A gift certificate to gather in the kitchen X times a week to tackle a new recipe together (their choice).


Whatever makes your kid happy—that you can commit to doing more of, with them. Phone off. Zoom off. Just you and them. I think you might find that becomes a great gift for both of you.

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