🎶It’s the most wonderful time of the year🎶
Andy Williams says, and I agree!
However, this season can bring about stress, disappointment, and anxiety. While stress seems counterintuitive to such a joyous season of giving and receiving, we all agree that keeping it to a minimum is paramount. Hopefully, with a little coaching and education, you can avoid these negatives and focus on the joy of the season.
First, we should assess how and why stress and anxiety show up this time of year. I think the root of the problem is a mistaken belief that objects will bring you (or others) happiness or contentment. Americans have become too materialistic, and happiness has been pegged on collecting more material items. We constantly want more and assume that we will be happy when we get it.
A great example of this mistaken belief plays out in the actions of children. Children often express a desire for a toy, and then quickly lose interest once they receive it, or end up enjoying the box it came in more than the gift itself! Adults frequently act the same with faddish, popular clothing or gadgets that eventually work their way out of our fondness.
Why do things never sustain us or satisfy us? Because true happiness and joy in life doesn’t come from things. You can’t buy love or someone’s true affection with money or an object, and all too often we convince ourselves that we should buy a gift in order to maintain a status or keep up appearances. The truth is everything is subject to decay and you shouldn’t spend your hard-earned money for the wrong reasons.
The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion in spending. Wow! That’s a big celebration! This is great for the American economy, but can place a heavy burden on American consumers if not done properly.
So should you buy gifts for loved ones? Of course! There is a correct way to buy gifts that will spread joy, and a wrong way that can create a lot of grief. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
You need to budget for Christmas gifts. Sometimes we forget that Christmas arrives every December 25th, and we panic around December 15th. To avoid this anxiety-inducing habit, develop a plan in a timely manner and follow it. Decide whom you want to buy gifts for, how much you will spend, and then stick to it. If you’re married, do this with your spouse! You may not necessarily both be fully involved in the shopping or wrapping, but you need to be in agreement on spending. Also, don’t forget to budget for holiday travel, family dinners, or unplanned gifts.
2. Don’t borrow money to buy gifts!
According to MagnifyMoney’s annual post-holiday debt survey, the average American will rack up more than $1,000 in credit card debt during the Christmas season on top of what they would normally spend in an average month. What’s worse is that only 42% of the holiday shoppers said they would pay off the Christmas debt within three months. And possibly the worst statistic is that 28% of people who borrowed money to pay for Christmas said they’re still paying for the debt from the last Christmas by the time the next Christmas comes around. This leads to extraordinary stress and anxiety, along with damaged credit scores, and is not the way to build wealth or secure a future for your family. Save up money every month to buy Christmas gifts, and by the time December arrives, you’ll have what you need.
3. Find true happiness and meaning.
We won’t find our hope or joy in the things we buy. If you’re a religious or spiritual person, focus on why you are really celebrating during this time—and then actually celebrate and make lasting memories! If you’re not particularly religious, take time to think about what this time of year means to you and how you will celebrate. Maybe you will focus on helping those in need in your community or perhaps you just want to spend quality time with family. Have fun and enjoy giving gifts to those you love. Whatever this season means to you, don’t get distracted by the presents but instead concentrate on that which will bring you true and lasting joy.