A Less Is More Holiday
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by Gary Foreman
Spending Less this Year Could Actually Mean a More Meaningful Holiday
Until recently Americans have increased their holiday spending every year. One record year after another. If you didn’t know better you’d think that we were running on a treadmill trying to buy holidayhappiness.
But the recession of the last few years has changed all that. Families struggling to make mortgage and credit card payments are cutting back on holiday purchases. And, they’re discovering something surprising. They’re actually having a more meaningful season when they spend less!
Hard to believe? Perhaps. But more and more people are reporting that a simpler holiday is actually more enjoyable. Let’s see if we can’t findout why that might be true and what changes you might want to considerfor your own holiday.
Begin by considering the years when money was plentiful. You might have had a budget, but if you overspent by a few dollars it was no big deal.
So if you couldn’t find the sweater you wanted for Uncle Albert you just chose the next closest thing. Often a little more expensive, but so what? Check Uncle off the list.
Same thing on party planning. Guest lists were easy. The more the merrier. Sure the party was so crowded and noisy that you didn’t really get to catch up with anyone. But that’s just the way that holiday parties are.
But the last couple of years you simply didn’t have the money to spend on the holidays. You had to keep to a budget. Spending extra wasn’t an option.
So what happened? You began by removing some names from your gift list. There were a number of people that you really didn’t want to buy for, but did because you figured they expected a gift. You talked to them and decided not to exchange gifts this year. You found that it was refreshing not to have to take valuable time buying their gift. Less time spent cruising virtual or brick and morter shopping malls.
What about the remaining people on your list? Unlike years past, you didn’t have as much money to spend on them. But you found that by thinking about what they’d like you could often find unique, creative gifts in unusual places. On eBay or in 2nd hand shops. The gifts related to their lifestyle or some experience that you shared with them.
How were these gifts received? Actually quite well. As an avid flyfisherman your uncle found the collection of old postcards featuring fishing scenes fascinating. Your Mom was all teary eyed when you gave her the framed caligraphy list of things that she taught you about life.
Upon reflection you realized that thinking about the person the gift was for tied you closer to them and made for more meaningful gifts.
You also found that you spend less time with holiday related activities. To avoid buying a closet full of party clothes, you dedided to turn down all but the most important gatherings. In their place you spent time with your family at a number of free community events. It was the first time in years that your family spent so much stress-free time together.
Looking back on it you found it to be one of the best holidays that your family has ever had. No stress about spending money that you didn’t have. No credit card hangover in January. And, you actually got to celebrate what really matters for the holidays: friends, family and faith.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who publishes The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters. They’ve been teaching people how to “live better…for less” since 1996. Check out these ideas for inexpensive teacher gifts.
What is your favorite holiday memory? Is it a gift, experience or something else?