Preparing for the 2018 Holidays

None of us wants to feel like this woman, but many would admit that we do, at least to some degree. That’s what makes an effective parody—we recognize elements of truth in an exaggerated scenario.

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s ended up in a situation thinking:  Right. Now I remember why I decided never to do this again!  Of course, by then I’m in the midst of it… and the cycle perpetuates.

The holidays intensify things that aren’t working in our lives, and it’s distressing at the time. But it also provides teachable moments if we are paying attention.

Breaking the cycle…

It’s so easy to be propelled along by expectations and circumstances—especially at holiday time. By now, one week into December, the momentum has likely reached a point where things will play out as usual. Enjoy every moment of this month, if you can. If not…

  • Pay attention this time round. Note the sticky spots. Write them down.
  • Revisit your notes in January. Read through all your notes at once. This is a good way to see the big picture. Sometimes you’ll make surprising connections that weren’t obvious in the midst of the situation. Ask yourself these questions:

—What didn’t work for me?

—What would I have preferred?

—What would it take for me to have a different experience next time?

—Am I willing to do that?

  • Regroup, and revise your practices.This is where you interrupt the cycle by making a plan of action based on what you learned.

Start with your mindset…

Willingness is often overlooked, yet a lack of it is the one thing that sabotages the rest of the process. We can usually figure out a plan for making things better, but it will not work if our unconscious mind is not on board. And if we are unaware of the unconscious elements at play, our plans for improvement don’t work.. We can’t explain why…and that is so frustrating! More about that another time.

Since we have been looking at credit cards the past couple weeks, let’s use overspending as an example of holiday angst.

Living in a consumer culture puts us under enormous pressure to spend mindlessly. And our ready access to credit cards is the marketers’ dream, fuelling the attitude they want us to have: What the heck, spend beyond your current capacity because you can.

How we think sets the stage for how we act. Our thoughts shape what we do. So, if you think there has to be a better way, you will find one. What if you decide to be a conscious consumer instead of a mindless one? As a conscious spender, you would…

  • think for yourself to make the life you want.
  • decide freely, without being influenced by unconscious emotional factors.
  • trust your common sense and gut feelings as part of your decision-making process.

A common-sense perspective…

The issue of holiday indebtedness can be examined from a common-sense perspective. Consider these questions:

  • Does it make sense to go into debt over gifts?
  • If the recipients knew, how would they feel?
  • Would it detract from their pleasure in the gift?

A clever system for getting ahead of the game…

Make a practical plan to avoid paying interest on gifts. Save for gifts instead of buying them on borrowed money. This moves you from mindless consumption to conscious spending.

  1.  Decide how much you’ll spend in total for holiday gifts and entertainment in 2018. Then divide that amount by 10. For example, if your total is $2500 and you divide it by 10, you’ll get $250. This is your monthly amount to set aside from February to November.
  2. Open a separate bank account for holiday spending. Starting in February, have the bank automatically transfer $250 each month from your pay into this account.
  3. Use this money only for holiday gifts. If you find yourself tempted to take some out for emergencies, set up a different account to accumulate emergency funds.

Building a holiday account saves you money in two ways…

  • You are able to pay cash for gifts. This means everything you buy only costs you the purchase price, not the price plus 20% interest.
  • You’ll have money available to take advantage of good deals throughout the year. Suppose in May you see a half-price sale on the perfect gift for your brother. With cash from your holiday account, you can buy his gift on sale now rather than paying full price in December.

The real holiday fun

When you save ahead for gifts and don’t pay interest to the banks, you have the pleasure of knowing you’ve been in the driver’s seat—a conscious spender rather than a mindless consumer—and have beaten them at their own game. Well done you!

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