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“It’s the most, wonderful time of the year!”
If you’re someone who struggles with overspending, or you wait and procrastinate until the last minute and don’t plan for the holidays, then it probably isn’t the most wonderful time for you. Instead, you’re likely filled with holiday stress and anxiety about the upcoming season.
The holidays can be frightening times for people who struggle with the need and fears that propel you to shop and spend like crazy. And, for those of you with limited resources, it can leave you feeling less than adequate.
I remember many years ago who my shopping habits were out of control. The more I spent, the better I felt. Or at least this is what it seemed like to me.
Years later, broke and unable to buy any Christmas presents, I was left feeling like a failure. Holiday guilt was in full force.
But what do you do and how do you handle the stress of buying when you feel out of control, or don’t have the available resources to buy the gifts in the first place?
THE BEST WAY TO STOP HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUILT
We are bombarded every day with images of what the media feeds us as the “good life.” Living up to this standard is almost impossible for the average person. If you do attempt to replicate what you see on television, then you are certainly in debt as a result. If you don’t, you are left with holiday guilt.
What no one wants to recognize and acknowledge is that it’s OK – actually more than OK to live within your means, except where you are financially and begin to change your circumstances using proven methodologies and habits.
One of the best things that ever happened to me was when I was facing bankruptcy and couldn’t afford ANY Christmas presents. My daughter was still relatively young and was used to lavish holidays where she would get everything on her list.
Her list was jam-packed, and it didn’t matter if it cost me $1000, I still bought what she wanted.
I felt this incredible need to ensure she had a bigger, better, best Christmas every year. Once my circumstances changed, and I couldn’t shop and spend like crazy, I could finally back away from the need and desire to spend recklessly. It forced upon me a shopping respite of sorts.
What was left was just the raw emotions, needs, and desires that could not be filled with shopping. I was left to sit with these feelings, to evaluate and dissect them and find new ways to fill the needs that had consumed my shopping behavior.
HOW TO STOP HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUILT
You might not be as keenly aware of your holiday shopping guilt as I was.
But that’s ok because these tips will help you whether this is something obvious to you or not.
PUT YOUR GAME FACE ON
Whether you are tooling around the mall or pursuing Amazon.com, make up your mind to stick to your budget. It’s a virtual holiday shopping war out there, and retailers will do everything in their power to make you deviate from your plan. They’ll throw it all at you: sentimental music, gushy salespeople, desirable items that are inexplicably no longer available (but more expensive versions are), and illusory markdowns. Don’t let them get to you. Tell yourself to follow your plan, no matter what.
MONEY CAN’T BUY LOVE
You’re not alone in equating love with money. Even though you know this isn’t true, you’ve been conditioned by years – no, decades of exposure to mass marketing that it gets harder and harder to challenge this belief. To convince yourself, just think about the gifts you’ve received that meant the most to you.
Were they ridiculously expensive? Probably not. Instead, they were the gifts that said something about your relationship with the gift-giver and therefore touched you most deeply. That said, you still need to be careful not to rock the boat by going “off the list.” If the recipient actually needs the items on that list, your gift will be most likely to be appreciated if it is something that he or she requested.
However, no one says you can’t add something else on top of the requested items. If all you can get are two washcloths instead of the entire set of bath towels, for example, add something inexpensive but thoughtful, such as a lovely candle, or a small bottle of bath salts in their favorite fragrance.
TALK TO YOURSELF
Your inner voice that tells you “if you love X, you’ll spend $$$” needs to be silenced by counter-voices. Grab the stuff you tell yourself that you can utter which will drown out those irrational beliefs. Figure out which mental game works best for you and then pull it out and use it as needed when you’re out shopping and need a dose of reality.
GIVE TIME – NOT MONEY
In the case of ordinary holiday gifts, offer to do something for the recipient that will provide a valued service. It could be something as simple as a “voucher” for running some errands, an offer to help them with a household job that you’d be good at, or just baking, cooking, or canning a food you know they love. Those yummy dinner rolls that only you can bake or the cranberry sauce whose recipe you’ve perfected may become such highly prized gifts that you’ll never again be stumped about what to get your favorite relatives or friends.
BE OF GOOD CHEER
When you’re sad, anxious, stressed, or tired you’ll be much more vulnerable to the dangers of over-spending. For some people, shopping provides a release from anxiety, boredom, or relationship woes. Don’t even think about getting started on your gift shopping until you can put yourself in an optimistic frame of mind. This also means that you should not put the shopping off until the last minute, because then you’ll have less control over your mood. Try to time your shopping to your best time of day because your mood will also be brighter and you’ll be less vulnerable to guilt.
Try and step outside of yourself and observe your shopping through this new lends. If you can get outside of the pull of the moment, you’ll be able to conquer the guilt-provoking inner forces that are luring you into making poor decisions.
I no longer spend a ton of money at Christmas time, and I am OK with that.
Instead of focusing on Christmas gifts I CAN’T afford, I focus on the spirit of Christmas.
The holidays have transformed into a season of giving of one’s self through service to others, giving gifts of kindness, laughter, and appreciation – and these gifts are the best remedy I know of for holiday guilt.
They are also at the heart of stopping holiday shopping guilt and finding new joy in the holiday season.