- DH = Dear Husband
- DD3 = Dear third daughter
- DD1 = Dear first daughter
- DD2 = Dear second daugher
Smart Christmas shopping through the year (& why I didn’t do it)
I know that it’s smart to start Christmas shopping about a year in advance. That way, you can take advantage of sales as they happen. But in the end, when I’ve tried that approach in shopping for our three daughters, my experience has been that by the time Christmas actually rolls around, I would rather give them something else. How can you know in March what your loved ones will want in December?
That’s my pride-saving reason for not doing my shopping early this year. The other reason – which I’m certainly not proud of – is that I bombed in managing my discretionary money this year (again), and I didn’t have the resources to go shopping for Christmas gifts. At this time of year, DH and I give ourselves a discretionary bonus for the season, and if I play it right, that will do the trick.
Generosity and debt
One of the things I started to do in the fall this year, as I realized that I was not winning in my resolution to get a grip on discretionary spending, was to track it – and to keep the tracking sheet on the fridge. DH and I have tracked our overall spending since we started our journey out of debt 4½ years ago, but for some reason, I resisted doing the same thing in this area where I’ve consistently struggled.
In looking at my tracking sheet, something becomes clear: I spend a lot on other people. Thank you gifts; treats; support for causes or friends’ businesses . . . Last week, I wrote a post about the impact of being a giver, a taker, or a matcher upon personal finance, and I included this observation: “Debt isn’t always exclusively about selfish spending on the latest shiny toy; often, people struggle with debt at least in part because of their stubborn compulsion to give.” There’s a bit of relief in that realization. It at least gives me a noble excuse for my ongoing discretionary spending issue.
First purchase: my under-budget brain-torment
As DH and I went out together Tuesday evening to shop for our daughters, we had a budget – as we have since we started to bring our debts down. I’ve never been too adamant about sticking precisely to our Christmas budget. It’s safe to say that without exception, I’ve always gone slightly over it. Tuesday evening, when we found what we wanted to give DD3, the total came up . . . under budget.
We had bought exactly what we thought our youngest would love to receive, but there was a bit of torment going on in my brain. “You could have spent more. You’ve short-changed her.” On a rational level, I know that’s ridiculous! But if there’s one thing I’ve come to realize as we’ve made our way out of debt, it’s that my money habits have nothing to do with rationality. In some deep recess of my brain is the conviction that spending = love. Logically, I can know that’s not true – and not change a thing. Change requires something more – something that touches upon the psychology behind the irrational: I have to practice my way out of spending based on false convictions – in eyes-wide-open awareness.
So I didn’t say a thing. I didn’t say, “Let’s get more,” or “Let’s get something more expensive.” I faced down the mini-brain-torment that said “Show her how much you love her by going over-budget!” and fiercely held to the purchase we had made – which was entirely perfect in and of itself. We would have bought it even if it had brought us slightly over-budget. As it happened, it just didn’t. There. No more. Full stop. Sheesh!
Second purchase: brain-torment stopped
DH and I divided and conquered at one point in our shopping, and I went off to buy DD1’s gifts as he went off to buy mine. The forces of pricing were in my favour as I bought more for our eldest more than I had expected to be able to. Again, we came in under budget. Not only had I bought exactly what I thought she would be happy to receive, I had bought more of it than she would ever expect her parents-on-a-budget to give. Yet we were under budget …
I stopped any brain torment in its tracks. Perfect gift – in fact more than perfect. In this case, I actually wouldn’t have gone over budget to get all of it. The fact that I was able to get it all and still be under budget was a bonus. No more. Full stop.
Your Christmas shopping: best wishes on the battleground
DH and I know what we’re going to get DD2, and we know that we’ll come right on budget for her. I already know what pressure my illogical $=♥ conviction will exert:“If you come in on budget for her, you’ll have to buy the other two a bit more so that they know you love them just as much.” But I’m not going to give it any power. With practice, I’ll work new synaptic connections in my brain so that such false convictions have no impact on either my finances or my relationships with loved ones.
If you have a history of bad money management and debt, there’s a good chance that Christmas is going to bring out the worst of your spending habits. This Christmas season, I wish you:
- a budget
- an awareness of your own sabotaging thought patterns as they arise
- victory in your struggle against negative, deeply ingrained brain waves
Is Christmas shopping a “battle” for you? Your comments are welcome.