The holiday season is here! For many people, the season is filled with warmth, delicious food, and cheerful spirits, as celebrations take place with the ones we love; it also brings anxiety, as people prepare to visit in tight quarters with people that you haven’t seen all year and to address awkward “table talks” about politics, religion, race, sex, and gender. We all have (or know people that have) that racist uncle…that homophobic grandparent…that bigoted cousin. I encourage you to engage in these conversations with your authentic values, and not sit aside, in an attempt to avoid confrontation for the sake of being polite. Our values are the principles that guide us.
Additionally, people tend to ignore their budgets during this time of the year. We spend lots of money on ourselves and others because 1) we convince ourselves that we’re getting a deal on Black Friday and 2) it feels good. Saving during a sale does not merit overspending; if you’re over your budget, then you’re over your budget — it does not matter that you saved $100 on a new television. Many Americans overspend in November and December, and spend the remaining 10 months of the year cleaning up the financial mess that they’ve made, only to do it again the next November. Heavy spenders, who are often the biggest givers, are notorious for justifying excess spending due to “getting a great deal.” As for feeling good, there are lots of things that feel good that are only good in moderation — personal finance is mostly a behavioral exercise; your ability to delay gratification is a primary success metric.
Stick to your short-term and long-term goals, the things that you really matter to you. Encourage friends and family to do a secret holiday gift system rather than buying a gift for everyone. Rally the ones you love to do a potluck, instead of one person/family doing all of the spending and cooking.
I’m not suggesting that you not give during this season, I am asking you to re-evaluate your giving habits; Our consumerism culture leads us to spend on ourselves and others in an excessive way. Take time to reflect on what the holiday season means to you.