“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” This is my favorite time of year! Christmas Carols, festive lights, sitting around the fireplace with family and friends seem to “make the season bright”; however, it is very easy to allow this wonderful time of year to become stressful. Don’t let the “joy of Christmas” be taken from you this year. Take some time away from planning parties, coordinating holiday event schedules, shopping, and arranging your Christmas decorations to refocus on the reason that we celebrate Christmas.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
God sent his son, Jesus, so that we may have the opportunity to know his love and to have peace in every circumstance we face. I don’t believe it has ever been God’s intention for his people to be “stressed out” on the very holiday that celebrates his ultimate gift of love and of peace. When giving gifts seems like an obligation rather than a joy, when we become overly burdened with debt, or if we allow our schedules to overwhelm us, we may have lost focus on what Christmas is all about.
Please allow me to share with you some tips that may help you avoid stress, enjoy more peace, and keep focused on the reason we celebrate this Christmas. As Christmas draws near, the last thing on the minds of most people is stewardship. Who wants to think about wise financial management during this time of year? Nevertheless, taking a little time to manage your holiday spending will help you avoid debt and enable you to have a more meaningful celebration.
- Have a written plan. Yes, I mean a budget! If you put a budget for your monthly spending together correctly, it will be a beautiful thing: it should be simple, understandable, and flexible. Plan every dollar you intend to make before the month begins and then map its course. If you have to make course corrections along the way, that is fine. Just understand that you are not the government and you can’t print more when you run out. The only way to increase spending in one area is to increase income or decrease spending in another area. (This tip is helpful even when you are not in a holiday season.)
- Avoid debt by saving for Christmas. You can use a Christmas club account or simply transfer a certain amount each month to a savings account that you set aside for Christmas all year long. Preparing in advance will help you avoid paying interest on Christmas charges long after the holiday has passed.
- Use Cash. When using credit/debit cards, it is easy to “swipe” even if you have exceeded your budget. You can’t “swipe” cash if you exceed your limit so your only option is to get something less expensive or to put items back.
- Put spending caps on your Christmas shopping list. Identify how much money you have to spend this year on gifts and assign a maximum dollar amount to each person on your list. I know this may sound cheap and impersonal, but it will prevent over-spending.
- Make memories with your friends and family. This can cost you very little or nothing at all. The rewards for making the time to do something special with those you love will reward you with a lifetime of memories and stronger relationships. Here are some examples: create new traditions or repeat old ones, go to a Christmas play at church or school, or gather your family by the fireplace to read the Christmas story. If you really want to reinforce the meaning of the holiday, consider helping the food pantry, take a meal to a family that may be going through a difficult time, participate in Toys for Tots, or some other wonderful charity that touches people who could really use a little joy in the midst of this turbulent economy
- Set aside some time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. God set an example to those who follow him in John 3:16. He gave his only son sacrificially and unconditionally. If we are to be like Him, we should have His spirit of love and of giving. Let us love one another with the love of God…not just this season, but always.
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