It’s amazing how it happens every year: All of a sudden, it’s the middle of December and Christmas is just a couple of short weeks away.
Because even though Christmas is always on December 25 (each and every year, guys), it seems that there is always financial stress at crunch time when you realize you are going to buy gifts for your family, the in-laws, your friends, your spouse and your children. (Notice I said “going to” and not “have to.”)
Have we not realized this was coming ALL YEAR LONG?
Why, then, do we continue to spend ourselves into a hole that we have to dig our way back out of at the beginning of the New Year? Do the happy holiday blinders go on and we just say, “Charge it!”?
Try just saying, “No.” Because, like my Papaw Kermit always said: “’No’ is a complete sentence.”
You don’t have to buy love with Christmas presents. But, if you enjoy giving and it makes your heart happy, go for it. Just start planning earlier than December 12.
I’ve listened to a few financial planning “gurus” over the years. Just recently we had a visit from local financial smarty, "Pete the Planner" (as part of the Chamber’s internal wellness programming, our staff will be able to participate in a financial wellness program with Peter Dunn throughout 2013).
They’ve all pretty much said something similar: Start saving up your cash earlier in the year to pay for Christmas. Don’t touch the money unless you are using it for your Christmas shopping purposes (whether that’s in May or on Black Friday). And DON’T spend money you don’t have.
It’s time for Americans to start taking back control of the economy, which will start with each family getting in control of their finances. And no one can do it for you (not even the government). It’s not easy – sticking to a budget takes work, but financial strain and daily turmoil causes more work and stress than living within your means.
As it is only a few weeks away from Christmas and it’s a little late to start stockpiling your money for Christmas 2012, my advice is this if you are fretting and can’t afford gifts. There’s no shame in telling your friends and family that you are working to right your financial ship and that spending time together – or offering to clean their home or cook dinner for them or just listening when they need a shoulder – is a better gift than anything bought in a store. If they are truly your friends and family, they will be understanding and help you on your path to financial peace.
And next year, you can start saving money early … unless you decide that offering your time and services is a much better gift anyway.