With Christmas right around the corner, I thought this would be a great time to talk about Christmas spending. We are all familiar with the typical advice: review last year’s expenses, prepare a budget, and avoid using credit cards. Great advice; however, it leaves out one crucial factor…emotions.
Emotions affect our spending more than we realize. Case in point, let’s go back to the Christmas season of 1990. This was the Christmas prior to the birth of my second daughter in January. At the time, I was a stay at home mom. I had a part-time bookkeeping job and I kept children in my home to earn extra money to supplement the family budget. Rachel, my oldest, was 2 1/2 years old, and I decided she needed an extra special Christmas to prepare her for the upcoming birth of Hannah. Emotions? You bet! I spent well over $700 on toys and such; our income in those days was about $30,000 per year, so that works out to over 2% of our entire income! Their dad never said a word, after all, I was a CPA, right? By the way, it’s much easier to handle other people’s money than it is to manage your own. Time went by, the girls grew, and it was time for a garage sale. I was surprised to see how many of those toys I “had to buy” for Rachel wound up in the garage sale…less than a year later.
The girls continued to have a lot of Christmas gifts each year, as you can see from this picture from 1997. The girls are 21 and 24 now, and the toys they want come with a much higher price tag. Over the years, I’ve changed my approach and planned my Christmas purchases before I started shopping. I am a lot better at setting realistic spending limits for their gifts. I also try to make sure they have what they need, and a little of what they want. For example, they are getting lap tops under the tree this year. Nice gift, yes, but still practical for college students. There will be a few stocking stuffers as well. I remind myself that giving gifts is not the highlight of Christmas day, nor is it the purpose. My family of origin has stopped exchanging gifts at Christmas. We get together at my home for a nice Christmas lunch. It’s much more enjoyable that way, relieves a lot of stress we put on ourselves to find the perfect gift, we spend time visiting, and we get to reflect on the best gift…Jesus’ birth.