1 December 2007

Christmas spending

I would like to give everyone a gentle reminder and, hopefully, a little strength to not go overboard with Christmas spending. I've received a few emails recently from readers who feel they need to indulge their family and friends with Christmas gifts, even though they're on a tight budget and trying to move out of debt.

It's a difficult balance to achieve. On the one hand you're evolving into a new way of living that even if it doesn't involve paying off debt, is frugal and non-consumerist. On the other hand, you want to show your love and friendship to those you give gifts to, you want to celebrate and be part of the season and that involves gift giving.

Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together to honour their religious convictions, celebrate the season of good will and to reconnect with loved ones. There is no tradition that I'm aware of, apart from the con that advertisers try to pull about buying everything you can, that urges us to spend beyond our means. But I am a realist and I know that urge is there. Christmas needs to be part of your year-round strategy of being true to your own values of thrift, conservation and caring for your family and yourself. That doesn't include providing a luxury goods and toys splurge that you'll be paying for well into next year. Even if you can afford such a splurge, your new found values would, I hope, guide you towards a more frugal Christmas.

Give gifts that reflect your new values. Give, and receive, in the true spirit of Christmas, be generous with your love, acceptance, tolerance and kindness and you will be rewarded with the knowledge that you stayed true to yourself. Remember that everything you do is watched by your children, you are teaching them how to be. If you run around like a headless chook (chicken), buying too much with too little, that is what you'll teach them to do when they grow up. But my feeling is that if you are reading this, you want to give up your headless chook days and move more into a feeling of relaxed celebration; the kind that provides the feeling of abundance without dollar signs attached to it. So if you need to reduce your Christmas spending bit by bit, do that, but at least make an effort to make your Christmas not totally about expensive gifts and more about the embrace of your family.

Don't keep up with the Joneses. They're probably in debt up to their ears. Be glad that the sum total of your life adds up to more than shopping. You may well become the new leader in your family; the one who starts the frugal revolution. My feeling is that many people want to stop spending so much at Christmas but they don't know how to stop. Show them. Show them, by example, that a gift hand made with love, or picked with care at the fair trade store, is the best expression of the season that is not about expensive gifts but about love, peace and goodwill to all.
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