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Overcoming the Commercialism of the Holidays



We know the holidays are about more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We know they’re about more than toys and televisions and gift baskets and gift cards. But even though we know it in our heads and know it in our hearts, it’s still so hard for us to take the emphasis off the commercialism.

We lament the continual infusion of holiday advertisements and we bemoan the shop ‘til you drop mentality, yet we seem powerless to resist the lure of all those bright and shiny gifts. Often the holidays become a time of stress rather than joy because our budget just never seems to be large enough to cover everyone and everything on our list.

Don’t let a tight holiday budget get you down, and don’t let yourself get sucked into all of the commercialism. The holidays are a great time to remind ourselves that the best things in life really are free. Do other things to make them special. Keep your eye out for free holiday events; make special crafts; bake; listen to lots of Christmas music. Here are some more things you can do to manage your budget during the holidays:

  • Create a list (a short one), and vow to stick to it. Then, look through sale flyers and shop around online to find the best deals on the gifts you’re purchasing.

  • Avoid the temptation to charge gifts on your credit card. You don’t want to start the New Year off with debt from the holidays. Budget for what you can actually pay for.

  • Cut back on gifts for those who are not in your immediate family. Consider having extended family draw names so that each person only buys for one extended family member. If you’d like to give gifts to other extended family members, friends, neighbors, etc., a hand-written card with a meaningful photo included can be just as special as a gift bought at the store.

  • Lots of parents try to keep things equal. Decide if it’s important to you to give each of your children the same number of gifts and / or to spend the same amount on each child. Younger children may not need as large of a budget, while older children may be more expensive. Don’t feel guilty about cutting back where you can. Babies typically like the boxes just as much, if not more, than the presents.

  • Do something to help others in need to remind yourself of how fortunate you really are. Volunteer with a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or toy drive.

I know it can be a challenge, but do your best to take the emphasis off the commercialism. Quality time and wonderful memories are much more in line with the true spirit of the season.

Clare K. Levison is a certified public accountant and author of Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live Better.

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