The Holiday Finances
Christmas is not my favorite holiday. I enjoy the spirit and the meaning of the season. I am all in favor of celebrating the birth of Christ and I am not all that opposed to a fat man sliding down my chimney to steal my milk and cookies. However, the stress of gifts, gift giving and parties is too much for me to handle. No matter how much my wife and I try to keep a lid on things, we over-extend ourselves financially every year around Christmas. That is why I like Thanksgiving so much.
Mrs. Stew and I are opposites. She loves parties and would have people over or go to someone else’s house nearly every night of the week. Me? I like to have a little space. I am all for hospitality and friendship and all that, but in measured doses. The result is that we complement each other, she keeps me from becoming a complete agoraphobic hermit and I let her know that it is okay to stay home once in a while.
And then there is the gifts. I don’t have enough money to contribute to our retirement fund, but the list of people to whom I am obligated to purchase a gift just keeps growing and growing . . . and growing. I try not to be a Scrooge and there are people to whom I really want to give a gift. I am willing to sacrificially give to my kids, my wife, most of my extended family, Mrs. Stew’s parents, sister, brother-in-law, and my grandparents. I would give to those people whether or not they had any ability to reciprocate. I definitely want to express my appreciation to them or hopefully give them a gift that they will value.
The problem comes when I start to consider employees, employers, supervisors, neighbors, acquaintances, the mailman, the trash collectors, etc. Everytime I turn around, I am being asked to contribute $5 or $10 so we can go together for a gift for someone else or to bring a “gift worth $15” for a gift exchange or so-and-so is expecting a tip. These gifts are putting us in the poorhouse . . . well, we were already there . . . these gifts are putting us under the poorhouse.
Here are a few solutions that may or may not work for you.
- Homemade gifts: not sure what I can make that anyone will actually appreciate. My wife definitely tries to do this with some success, but this strategy is limited.
- Budget and save up during the year: Very good idea, but we do not have any more room in our budget for another item. We have a negative savings rate as it is. Our finances are heading in the right direction and we are keeping our heads above water, but we just finished a year with an extra $14,000 of expenses due to our house not selling.
- Graciously decline: Not sure if there is a way to do this without offending or appearing cheap or worse – everyone gives me a gift anyway and feels sorry for me. Yikes!
These ideas have not all worked for us as you have probably gathered. :) Furthermore, while I am thankful for the gifts given to me – really, I do appreciate the thought – but the fact is that they rarely help with the electric bill or the food portion of our budget.
We just swallow hard, bite the bullet, git ‘er done and reap the consequences in January. We have done better this year, Mrs. Stew has come up with frugal solutions to many of our gift giving responsibilities and at least our house sold in July. I have much to be thankful for, God continues to meet our needs. I am looking forward to next Thanksgiving, though, no gifts to give, no gifts to awkwardly recieve and the meal is better.
Article by Stew
Photo by scottfeldstein