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Silver Bells, Silver Bells, It’s Christmas Time In the City… Already?
The temperature is barely under 90 degrees and the stores are already bringing out the Christmas stuff. I know it’s early to be talking about Christmas, but so many of us are going to start being tempted to buy unnecessarily. That’s why I thought I would give you early bird shoppers some tips on giving and buying gifts. For those of you who like to wait until Christmas Eve, these suggestions might be useful to you too. You might even be inspired to do some shopping on Dec. 23 instead of waiting to do all of it on the 24th. Ha! Ha!
- Make a list of everyone you need to buy for.
- Now… cut that list in half. See steps 3 and 4.
- Get your emotions under control. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but you need to separate your emotions and your money. Especially at Christmas time when emotions seem to be exceptionally high. Some people are happy and “feeling the love” so they shop. Others are depressed so they shop. Some people are lonely so they shop. Some people are so excited that their family is going to be with them so they shop.
- Identify reasons not to buy:
Don’t buy gifts to try to make people like you more. If they don’t like you unless you buy them gifts you really don’t want them for a friend.
Don’t buy gifts to impress people. The types of people who are impressed with the amount of money you spend on a gift are not worth impressing. Besides, they will quickly forget the gift and if you’re a typical Christmas shopper, you will be paying for it long after they have forgotten.
Don’t buy gifts for every Tom, Dick and Harry that you know. Just because “they” say you are supposed to give a gift to the mailman or the trash man doesn’t mean you should. I had a trash man one time that was awful. He was lazy, slothful and down right rude. I felt no obligation whatsoever to give him a gift. But another time, I had the nicest trash man who went above and beyond the call of duty. He got a huge plate of gingerbread men from me.
Don’t buy someone a gift out of pride. Stop being so prideful. Don’t worry about what people might think. Don’t put your name in the gift exchange at work if you can’t afford to participate. You may even be helping someone else without realizing it. There might be someone at work who is even more financially strapped than you are, but doesn’t have the courage to say something. By tactfully indicating that you can’t participate, you might help that person to back out also.
If you can’t bring yourself to say “I can’t afford a gift,” then maybe you could suggest that instead of exchanging gifts with each other you could pool the money and buy something for Toys for Tots or some other charity. If you normally spend $10 each on gifts, you might suggest that everyone give $5 to the charity. That way you can save a little but you will still be able to get one nice large present for someone who could really use it, instead of a doorstop for someone who is just being nice.
- Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to have to tell family members or friends that you can’t afford gifts or gifts that are quite as expensive as you have bought in the past. For most people it isn’t as big a deal as you think. If you say to most moms, dads, brothers, sisters or friends, “I just don’t have the money” or “we are trying to get our finances under control”, they usually won’t say, “we don’t love you anymore.” If that is their reaction, is that really a relationship worth having? In most cases they will probably be very supportive and admire you even more for being honest and not pretending to be someone who you really aren’t.
- It really is the thought that counts.Gifts don’t have to be terribly expensive to mean something to the receiver. Remember, too, that the price of a gift is not the scale by which to measure your love for that person. Love is priceless. Stop trying to buy love with expensive gifts.
My grandmother-in-law once gave me a set of pillow cases that she had made as a young bride. There was no cost involved but it is one of my most treasured gifts. There are a lot of gifts that don’t cost anything but mean so much. Set aside some time to think about what might be meaningful to those you love. My oldest grandson was at the age where it is soooooo gross to get a hug from anyone. On my birthday this year he said “Nan, for a present you can hug me all you want and whenever want for the whole year.” Is that not the best gift a grandma could get?
- Now that you have your list under control, figure out how much you can afford to spend. Don’t let the number of credit cards you haven’t yet maxed out or the fact that a bank might be more than happy to let you take a second (or third) mortgage on the house fool you into getting seriously in debt. How much you can reasonably afford? Take that number and make it your budget to buy for all the people you have on your list. This will give you a general idea of what you have to spend on each person. It doesn’t have to be set in stone and you can adjust it more the closer you get to Christmas. (By the way, if you manage not to spend it all, don’t go overboard looking for ways to spend more. Count it a blessing.)
- Next to each person’s name, write the amount you have to spend on them, their sizes, and gift ideas. As you buy them a gift write it down and how much it costs to help you stay on track.
- Even though I was teasing the Christmas Eve shoppers, there is something valuable in waiting until you get closer to Christmas to do your shopping. Stores have more sales closer to that time. If I see something that I know someone would like and buy it now, chances are good that in two weeks I will find something they like even more for a better price, so I like to wait to buy until I have seen everything out there.
- My last tip is to relax and enjoy Christmas. There are so many extreme opinions about Christmas now. There are those who think of Christmas only in the commercial sense and there are others who go the other direction and feel there should be no gift giving or other traditions at all for fear they will lose the whole meaning of Christmas.
Everyone has his or her own convictions about Christmas and gift giving. Mine is that I love Christmas so very much and would love to celebrate it all year long.
In the Bible, in Esther chapter 9, the Jews had just been saved by God from their enemies. They were told for two days that they should have a time of feasting and joy. Is that like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? (Our family certainly gets into the feasting part and there is nothing more joyous than our children on Christmas Day). They were also told to give presents to each other. This shows us that, if we give with the right motive and without going overboard, there’s nothing wrong with gift giving.
In verse 22, it goes on to say to give gifts of food (I wonder how many plates of goodies the average person receives the week before Christmas.) and gifts to the poor (I don’t think we can deny the outpouring of gifts for those in need at Christmas either.) Then in verse 30, it says that Mordecai sent letters of good will and assurances. (Is that like Christmas cards?) Did you notice that the letters were of goodwill and assurances and not about how wonderful your own family is and all the magnificent things they accomplished this past year?
This story says that this should be celebrated every year because this was a time when God gave them relief from their enemies, turned their sorrow into joy and transformed their mourning into a time of celebration.
Isn’t that what God did for us at Christmas? He sent his Son to save us and give us relief from our enemy, to turn our sorrow into joy and our mourning into a time of celebration. If the Jews were to celebrate their deliverance from human enemies, how much more should we celebrate our deliverance from spiritual enemies?
I have reason to celebrate: To share all the blessings God has given me with others and isn’t Christ’s birthday the perfect time to do it?
P.S. If you often wonder where all of your money goes or if you need a more frugal mindset, check out Dig out Of Debt here and learn more about how to keep more of your money.
Photo By: Katy Warner