Financial Peace During the Holidays

12/3/2013 by Marlene Kurban

The statistics are scary:  39% of Americans carry credit card debt month to month (2012 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey) and the average household credit card debt weighs in $7,050.  Making things even grimmer, many households lack even a basic financial cushion. reported in 2012 that 28 percent of American families have no savings at all. Another 20 percent don't have enough saved to cover even three months' worth of living expenses, while just 43 percent have enough in savings to cover three months of expenses.

 Yet the store circulars and Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales beckon, and ‘tis the season to slide even further into debt for many families.  The difficulty for many households often lies in setting a budget and sticking to limits.  Sure, parents want to please their kids and buy the latest $200 Dr. Dre headphones they’re clamoring for, but in a few months there will be yet another “must have” item that the kids will want.  The headphones will be shoved in the closet or under the bed, as the bills keep rolling in.  Is it possible to put the brakes on out-of-control holiday spending that will only lead to stress and anxiety down the road?

 Yes, it is possible, but it involves a major attitude shift if the holidays only mean “presents” and not “presence.”  As in the presence of mind to avoid shopping triggers that you know will throw your budget out of whack.  As in appreciating the presence of family and friends, and simple holiday rituals that create memories.  Will kids remember the gifts they received?  Maybe …but if you think back to your own childhood, are your fondest holiday memories of toys that you got, or of family experiences?  I’ll bet that the fewer presents you received as a kid, the more meaningful they were. 

  There are always choices.  So limit the spending this year.  Make a realistic budget and stick to it.  Talk to your family about prioritizing.   Focus more on experiences and less on things.  A winter hike along a shoreline path can do more for your spirits than a trip to an overcrowded mall.  Be of service to others; maybe spend some time as a family doing something to give back to your community. And if your kids don’t get the headphones this year, believe me, they’ll survive.




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