The closer we get to the festive period, the more pressure the shops and our nearest and dearest start to pile upon us. It can push even the sanest, most sensible person into spending more than they can afford, and it takes some effort to resist.
This week is the perfect time to take action and defuse the annual ticking financial time bomb that Christmas can become. Fortunately, avoiding gift-ma-geddon is very straightforward: just take a deep breath and talk to your friends and family about the situation, and avoid mutually assured financial self-destruction.
Christmas isn’t something you can buy
There are very few people out there who genuinely think the gifts they give can directly buy them love, but it’s dangerously easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the amount you spend on someone is a true measure of how much you love them. I’ve been there myself more than once, but have since taken a long hard look at my behaviour and decided change was due.
What underpins so much of our festive overspending is hidden anxiety. It can come from subconsciously believing that we can somehow buy our loved ones ‘the best Christmas ever,’ that we have to buy things we can’t really afford to be adored by our kids or partners, or that we should keep up with the spending excesses of our peers to avoid some form of social embarrassment.
These thought patterns aren’t helpful, and whenever I spot them creeping in I remind myself of the big picture. The best Christmases I’ve had were the ones where I got to spend time relaxing and laughing with lovely people, and the most treasured gifts I’ve ever received have been relatively inexpensive ones that were picked out with care and thought.
It’s the perfect reality check.
How to stand down and scale back
As other Totally Money articles have mentioned recently, it’s important to draw up an affordable budget for the festive period and stick to it.
Discuss your plans and your budget with loved ones sooner rather than later, and nip the cycle of overspending in the bud before it has a chance to start. It’s also the decent thing to do if you’re new to curbing your spending – make sure you catch people before they go out and purchase something expensive for you, otherwise it can lead to ill-feeling later on.
It’s all about managing expectations, and not trying to put on a front or be all things to all people. You might also be helping some of your family and friends out by being honest, as many of them may be worrying secretly about the same issue but are too scared or embarrassed to say anything.
Negotiating a peaceful solution
When it comes to talking about gifts for adults there are several different solutions to try, and perhaps one of these will suit you.
Dealing with kids is a little trickier, especially if they’re younger and you don’t want to let the truth about Santa out of the bag, but most will understand that there’s a limit to everyone’s resources (yes, even Santa’s) if you gently broach the subject. You could also ask them to rank their Christmas wish list in order of priority, so they start to understand that they might not receive every single item on a long, long list.
Will you be limiting your spending this festive season? If you have any other tips and ideas for talking about it with your loved ones, please share them.