Christmas is upon us and it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Everywhere you look, there are festive and cheerful decorations. The spirit of generosity and goodwill toward men is thick in the air, and so is the wonderful aroma of pies, cakes, and Christmas cookies. Folks, I love Christmas time. But as wonderful as it all is, it brings about its own unique stresses. That’s why I’ve decided that today’s post will discuss how to avoid Christmas conflicts.
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A recent survey from Union Bank revealed that most Americans are worried about overspending on gifts during the holidays. Likewise, the survey showed that 3 out of 4 people are stressed out about overeating even before the feasts have begun. And with all of that amazing Christmas food, who can blame them? Around 40% of those who were surveyed confessed that they were worried about drinking too much. While all of these are reasonable worries, perhaps one of the more concerning parts of the survey was that nearly one-third of the people surveyed said that they would be willing to go into debt to buy something nice for their significant other.
Folks, I’m not opposed to giving good gifts to the people that we love. But it’s important to make responsible decisions and to understand how these various stresses can lead to Christmas conflicts. In order to understand the relationships that we have with our significant others, we can look at the five languages of love. This idea comes from the book The Five Love Languages and basically looks at the ways in which we show love to one another. Just as we show love in a variety of ways, we also perceive love in different ways.
For example, my dear sweet wife, Emily’s love language is gift-giving. This means that opening gifts on Christmas morning is a big deal in our household and can last most of the day. And, to be quite frank, Christmas itself is all about the gift of love. I mean, how can you show your love any more than God did when He gave His only son to the world? So, what are these five love languages?
For many people, the greatest way that they can give and receive love is through simple words of kindness, encouragement, and love. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “the tongue has the power of life and death.” So, for people whose love language is words of affirmation, speaking life into the people that they love is the most powerful way that they can show love. Likewise, they feel the most loved when others are speaking life into them.
Just as some believe in the power of their words, others are more convinced by actions. You’ve probably heard the old adage, “actions speak louder than words,” and there’s truth to that statement. Of course, that doesn’t diminish the power of our words. But those who love through acts of service are people who will literally give you the shirt off of their back. They will go out of their way to make sure that you are cared for.
As I said earlier, my wife Emily is a gift giver. She absolutely loves to show how much she cares for people by giving good gifts. Gift givers aren’t necessarily materialistic. More often than not, the gifts that they give are extremely thoughtful, as they are given with the intention of showing the recipient how much they are loved.
Additionally, there are many people who give and receive love through spending quality time with one another. This could be a fishing trip with their kids or an evening snuggled up on the couch with their spouse. The important thing is that whatever they’re doing it is with the people that they love.
Finally, there is my love language, physical touch. I show love through gentle touch. I love it when my friends sneak up behind me and wrap me up in a bear hug. Likewise, I love to just hold Miss Emily’s hand in mine. That’s how I love the people who mean the most to me. Don’t judge me! I’ve been told I am an excellent hugger!
What we’ve learned so far is that many people have widely differing views on Christmas spending. Likewise, it is in some people’s nature to give gifts. Asking them to refrain from giving gifts during the holiday season would be like telling them to stop breathing. So, how do we reconcile these things? What can we do to prevent Christmas conflicts around spending?
It may not sound like the most festive thing in the world, and truthfully, it’s not. But the easiest solution to preventing money conflicts during this Christmas season is to have a Christmas money meeting. Typically, in a relationship, one of you will be the saver and the other is the spender. This isn’t always the case, but typically, it is. Understanding who you are in the relationship is the first step to having a successful Christmas money meeting.
Now, if you’re the saver, keep in mind that you can’t take it with you. My daddy used to say, “Son, life isn’t about getting all you can, canning all you get, and then sitting on your can.” Money is meant to be used for good. On the other hand, if you’re the spender, don’t rob your future self for present luxuries or pleasures. With that in mind, both of you will need to enter this meeting with the mindset that you’ll each need to be willing to compromise. Let’s continue with the remaining two steps to having a successful Christmas money meeting.
As we approach the end of 2020, many business owners are having banner years. On the other side of that coin, there are thousands of businesses that are struggling just to survive. This isn’t the time to worry about keeping up with the Jones’. The Jones’ don’t have the same circumstances that you do. They may not be business owners. Likewise, they may not be living like no one else so that later, they can live like no one else.
For that reason, I want you to ignore the Jones’ and focus on your own financial circumstances. Where are you at in your business? Was it a successful year? Great! Enjoy it. If not, set a budget that is realistic to your current circumstances and stick with it. Sit down with your spouse and evaluate your financial situation, talk about it, and agree on a budget. Mutual agreement is an absolute necessity. If you don’t agree on the budget, you won’t follow the budget. Remember you must both be willing to compromise. So, find that common ground and come together as a team.
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This last step may seem a bit unnecessary, but there are very good reasons for it. You and your spouse should go into separate rooms and write out Christmas lists. Why separate rooms? First, this is an easy way to prevent confrontation. You will each come up with a list of gifts that you want to buy for every person that you’re buying gifts for. Even if you don’t normally do the Christmas shopping, write down what you want to buy for the people on your gift list. While you’re writing your individual shopping lists, there isn’t the opportunity to disagree on what gifts you’ve chosen for each person.
Second, writing out your lists in separate rooms forces you into a though budget. While coming up with your list of gifts, you can’t help but think of the actual cost of each of the gifts you’re planning to buy. The next reason for doing this is a natural byproduct of the second reason. Writing your lists doesn’t just force you to think about your budget, it actually prevents you from overspending through impulse buying. One of the hardest things to do is to walk into a store during the holiday season and come out with only the items you originally intended to buy. That’s because there is tried and true psychology at work in the very layout of these stores. They have intentionally placed every item to create that impulse within us to spend money.
Finally, creating separate lists in separate rooms allows you to come back together, compare notes, and create a game plan that works for both the saver and the spender. You might be surprised by the gift ideas you and your spouse come up with. In the end, you might just create a better list than if you were doing it alone.
First and foremost, friends, don’t spend more than you can afford to spend during the Christmas season. I know it sounds cliché but I had Christmas’ growing up where we each got a single gift. I can tell you exactly what that gift was, even to this day. On the other hand, I had Christmas’ where we had more gifts under the tree than I knew what to do with. I can scarcely recall even one of the gifts I received during those years.
It isn’t about the materialistic things of this world. Christmas is about meaningful and lasting moments with the people we love. Rather than going into debt for a few gifts that the recipient will likely have forgotten in the next five years, choose gifts that they will remember long after. This could even be an experience. For example, we took our kids skiing for the first time a few years back and it was one of the most memorable Christmas’s we’ve had in a long time. So, don’t underestimate the value of quality time together through shared experiences, either.
Folks, life is hard. 2020 has straight-up kicked many of us in the teeth. Christmas can be stressful, but it’s still the most wonderful time of the year! Regardless of your views on holiday spending or what your love language is, avoiding Christmas conflicts doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little give and take and a willingness to communicate, we can make Christmas spending at least financially simple.
From all of us at Financially Simple, Merry Christmas! If you have questions about how we can help you make 2021 a year to remember, please, schedule a meeting. We are here to help!