My husband was telling me about a news bit he had seen where a mom was relating that their family would have no Christmas this year. The twist is that she had quite a bit of attitude about that, as if it were the world’s fault. The question in my mind is what her definition of ‘no Christmas’ is? Does it literally mean no presents for her kids, or that she can’t afford the latest X-Box?
Years ago, I worked with an amazing woman. Her husband was addicted to gambling and died of cancer, leaving her with astonishing amounts of debt and medical bills. She told me some incredible stories of her life with him and she had quite a bit of strength to stay in that marriage. After he died, she called all of her creditors and arranged new payment plans. No creditor really wants you to default on your loan. They don’t want your stuff. They want repayment and will work with you if at all possible and if you go to them.
One Christmas after his death she had to tell her boys that they could either have Christmas dinner or presents – not both. That could not have been easy.
How many people are willing to do that kind of thing?
My MIL, when she worked in a doctor’s office, was forced to participate in buying gifts for needy families. She was never flush with cash, hard working though she was and careful with her household budget. The items on the “needy” list included very pricey items which were not necessities, and when she protested was told, “Be thankful you have a job!” Of course she was thankful she had a job, but she was expected to spend $100 or more when her own personal budget didn’t allow for those kind of purchases.
What was she asked to buy? Expensive work coats (I don’t remember the brand, but over $200), DVD’s, video games, and a bunch of other things which you wouldn’t expect on a list from a truly needy family. I’ve become a bit cynical as to what people’s definition of “needy” is.
I am not against helping families out. Our church puts up a tree with anonymous requests for items for church kids whose families can’t afford Christmas. One person has the master list of which present is for whom and gets them delivered. The items are usually clothing items, books, board games, etc, and it’s only for the kids – not adults.
Through the years, I’ve been floored hearing what some of my friends spend on Christmas. Families where they don’t always know how they’re going to meet the bills, yet will spend up to $500 per person in order to have a really awesome Christmas.
On the flip side, I’ve heard of families who couldn’t afford a huge Christmas filling the room with balloons to make it look more full (and probably really fun, too!). I’ve heard of treasure hunts to find each gift when only a few things could fit in the budget, thereby stretching out the “present opening” time. I love the creativity! Which kids do you think have more lasting memories of their Christmas mornings?
So here’s the challenge.
Think about what you can truly afford to spend for Christmas gifts next year. Feel free to set your limit on the low side. (Unexpected car or home repairs could come up over the course of a year and you don’t want to squeeze your finances.) Make a list of those to whom you wish to give a gift (or multiple gifts). Establish your budget limit for each person, making sure you stay within your total Christmas budget.
Now the fun part. Throughout the year 2019, take note of things they comment on through the year as needing/liking/wanting. Keep your eyes open when you’re on vacation or just in an unusual shop. When you find something you know they’ll love, it’s time to buy it, even if it’s March.
Keep a list of what you buy and how much you spend. It’s important that you stick to your budget! Keep the items in a central location so you aren’t going on a treasure hunt next December.
If you’ve struggled with finances in the past or present and you find something on sale or clearance, feel free to count the original price for your budget and ‘save’ the discount. No one will know (unless you tell them) and it will not take away from your awesome find.
If you have some talent, you now have a year to make something special for your loved ones. Not everything has to be wrapped in impossible-to-open plastic.
Hopefully, you’ll have more fun planning and shopping for your loved ones and you will be giving them more gifts from the heart than items spied on a special display in the department store on Christmas Eve. Your January bills will thank you as well, since your spending will be spread out.