Crown Financial: Don’t Overspend This Christmas (Part 1)

Jonathan JenkinsBy Jonathan Jenkins10 Minutes

Jonathan Jenkins:  It’s very easy to overspend, especially with the deals that stores have this time of year. Do you have any recommendations on some ways people can limit their spending this holiday season?

Handre de Jongh:  Absolutely! I think there are a few tips that I would give. One tip is don’t shop Black Friday and then shop during all of the other holiday specials leading up to Christmas. Create a great new year for you and your family. What I mean by that is that we get so tempted into all these specials and buy unnecessary things because we think it will bring happiness and joy. Unfortunately, what I have seen over the years is that people simply overspend during this holiday season. They overspend, they over eat, and then they come into January, and it’s suddenly all about the New Year’s resolutions. Those resolutions normally center around two things. Firstly, they want to go on a diet or join the gym, and secondly, they need to take care of finances-related issues. What you start to see is that they spend the next 11 months trying to fix what they messed up in the last month of the previous year.

We’re currently in a pandemic, but I also see this issue as a pandemic in its own right. It’s a pandemic because it hurts families and individuals tremendously. We try to look beautiful on the outside by having all these luxuries and great things. People may be amazed by it, but we are literally up to our eyeballs in debt. We’re just struggling and moving things around to try and make it to the end of the year or even to the end of every month.

So, there’s a few extra tips I have to combat this. First, develop a budget for all your holiday spending and shopping, including your hospitality expenses. Second, I would say shop with a list. Scour the online stores for price comparisons, and then look for special offers. Third, shop for your needs, not your wants. Avoid spontaneous spending on items that are really non-essentials, especially for holidays. There are so many non-essentials we buy without thinking about it. Fourth, don’t go into debt. This is an obvious one, but we should repeat this to ourselves every time we shop online or actually go into a store. We need to repeat the little phrase, “Don’t make debt,” because we tend to just swipe that card and not think about the consequences. Fifth, avoid comparing your situation with other people’s situations; that often leads to emotional spending.

Advertising and social media can really make you feel depressed during the holidays because they show and display all the things that you think you need to be happy. Be grateful for what you have. When you’re grateful for what you have, it also opens your heart to give more. So, the key to success in all these tips is really self-control. It’s an important fruit of the spirit. We have to allow our hearts to be filled with self-discipline and self-control. Remember that a debt-free Christmas is a blessing to you and your family. I want to tie a bow around this first question with that reminder.

JJ:  With social media being such a huge factor now in many people’s lives, we often compare our lives and life experiences to the best moments of somebody else’s. Reality is never really going to match up to every expectation we have. Comparing can definitely hurt contentment, and a lack of contentment can in turn really sour the holiday experience for people. Are there some ways that people can learn to foster contentment and find ways to increase their happiness with what they currently have rather than just seeking out more, especially during the holidays?

Handre de Jongh:  Yeah, absolutely. I recently read a comment by a lady who wrote that before COVID, she used to make a list of everything she wanted for Christmas. This list was probably self-centered and just focused around personal wants. But then COVID hit. She writes that her list has changed significantly. She has now included things that she is thankful for and things that she would like others to get in order to see joy come to their lives and see smiles on their faces.

As for contentment, I believe it’s linked to gratefulness, and sometimes we learn to be grateful in hard times. Hard times strip us of our self-centeredness. I think we have all in some way, shape, or form had a form of difficulty this year, especially with COVID. I believe it has caused a lot of us to reevaluate what is important in life. I think this year, and this holiday season especially, is very different than previous ones. If you asked me that question last year, my response would have been to give you a checklist of things you have, because in this consumerist society where everything revolves around who buys the biggest gifts, we compare our gifts to what other people give their kids and their loved ones. We try to out-do other people so that our social status stays intact. I can go on about all these different pitfalls, but I do think that this year, specifically, this season looks different.

I’ve got kids in their twenties, in the teens, and below the teens, and they are all talking about how this year is totally different than previous years. It’s almost like there’s a sense of gratefulness that has entered because of hardship during this year. I think gratitude turns what we have into being enough. So, going into this holiday season, there are some things that we can do to bring contentment into our lives. Paul actually wrote about this when he said “I’ve learned the secret of being content.” It’s not a behavioral thing that you can just put on like you put on a jacket. As I’ve learned over time, it’s a secret.

I think if we start focusing outward rather than inward this holiday season, it will lead to great contentment in our lives. Yes, there might be some sourness coming in when some kids say that “I wanted this” and “I wanted that,” but I do think as parents or as spouses, we need to be open with our family members. We need to say, “This is what we have this year.” Are we going to spend this on ourselves, or are we going to look for opportunities to give? Are we going to look for opportunities to bring a smile to those that do not have what we have? We should be grateful for what we have, but are there people out there that might not have the meal that we were able to have? Could we take the money that we were going to spend on buying bigger gifts this year and use it to give somebody a warm meal and make them happy instead? Could we do something for others that we take for granted in our own lives? Maybe if a gift was going to be $100, we can look for a gift for $20 and use the remaining $80 to bless somebody else. We have the opportunity to teach ourselves, our spouses, and our children that gratitude is really the secret to contentment. I know that’s something that we have done in my family this year.