by Ted Crawford, LMFT
Employee Assistance Program, Pine Grove’s Outpatient Services
Well, it’s that time of the year folks. The money won’t spend itself, you know. Time to jingle-bell around jacking up your debt! Time to obsess over finding gifts that impress, stir up gratitude and make people like you! Also, time to procrastinate shopping for said gifts until it becomes a frantic chore. This could be the year that you, after a long day of Christmas errands, will spontaneously combust when the teenager at the service desk, who’s in absolutely no hurry, gives you the eye roll. Or maybe you’ll flame up while enjoying the efficiently smooth flow of Hardy Street/98 shopping traffic! OK, a little Grinchy… my point is that no one wants any part of the above this year. Most would like a Christmas in which they not only save a few bucks, but enjoy a more meaningful season also.
First, about your money; do the following and keep more of it:
1) Figure out what Christmas costs (in addition to the shopping, you have bigger utility bills, food/entertainment expenses, etc.) and plan ahead. Also, decide who’s been naughty or nice and set a reasonable limit on what you’ll spend on each person. Though difficult, make every effort to stay in budget! This really works best if it’s not a one-person project, by the way. So unless you’re single, do yourself and your relationship a favor and haggle this out with your spouse or partner (it may be a pain, but it’s cheaper to invest this energy up front, if you know what I mean).
2) Keep a running total of what you’ve spent. Awareness of this total can “sober” you into better decisions. Avoid buying on impulse, and don’t buy non-Christmas stuff that can wait until January.
3) Shop online first. At home in your underwear, click, click click… done! Can’t find what you need online? Before you venture out, call stores to check the item’s availability and cost. Depending on the size and busyness of the store, this could go either way on the stress meter, but retail clerks often think a ringing phone is some kind of emergency compared to the person in front of them who put clothes on and drove to the store. And, of course, phone calls can be made in your underwear too. Finding who has what you want at a decent price first, saves money, gas and time.
4) Choose gifts for kids/teens based on the value of how much they’ll actually be used. Play the movie forward in your head. Examples: That cute little Kung Fu Panda chair? C’mon, you know lil’ Boo-Boo can’t sit down for more than 3 seconds… move on! Closet Organizer for 15 y/o son? Think about it. Bedazzled pajama jeans? Really, Mom? Snap the rubber band on your wrist and back away slowly.
Now, about increasing the meaning of the holiday (and saving money):
1) Home-make your gifts (food/candy, knitting, woodworking, etc), i.e. make your internal gifts, into a gift and give them a piece of you.
2) Give coupons for services like foot-rubs, yard work, cleaning, making a favorite meal, etc (once, my wife gave me a coupon allowing me to win an argument… how sweet!). These are gifts of “experience”.
3) Give of yourself. Fulfillment is about letting go of our natural desire to receive things, so adopt a needy child or family and be Santa, or volunteer at a service organization.
4) Make it real. Decide what’s fulfilling to you compared to society’s expectations and spend time w/ loved ones being true to it. ‘Dollars spent’ isn’t the measure of a person’s love.
Here’s to having the Christmas you need!
Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.