It used to happen every year. We would plan to stay within our budget over the holidays, but then we would get caught up in the thrill of shopping and giving, and go over our budget. When January rolled around, we would gripe and blame and promise to do better next year.
I don’t usually write much about money or finances here, but I do know it is an issue that comes between many spouses and causes havoc in homes. As I prayed about what to share with you today, this topic came to mind.
“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10, ESV).
I remember the first time I heard that there are over 2000 verses in the Bible on money; I was blown away! My husband is the financial person in our family, and I tend to just make purchases and not worry much about it. Until I overspend and cause problems between the two of us.
Then I realize why 40% of Jesus’ parables deal with money (Rose Publishing). Financial issues are actually very spiritual. I have learned that in my role as the helper and supporter of my husband, I need to take seriously how I spend and not cause him stress and anxiety. One of the areas where I find this the most difficult is during the holidays.
How to Enjoy the Holidays without Overspending
I want to give and create and decorate and bake–all of which take money! I want to celebrate and enjoy this special season of the year with my family, but I don’t want to create stress through overspending that we will have to deal with either during or after the holidays.
So, we have learned to seek God together in prayer about how to spend during the season and then commit to sticking to our decisions no matter what.
This isn’t a post to make you feel guilty about your spending habits or your desire to enjoy the holidays, but, hopefully, one that will inspire you to find ways to still enjoy the season without all the overspending.
First, prayerfully write out a budget for the holidays.
One thing we do is to set aside some money all year long that is just for Christmas. It helps to have some extra saved up that you can then budget for seasonal spending. If not, then look over your finances and determine how much you can reasonably afford to spend at Christmas.
Start your budget with how much you want to give (such as to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering) first, then budget the remainder.
Make a Christmas list of those you want to buy a gift for and an amount you will spend on each one. Remember that the idea is to give something that will be a blessing to another, so don’t get caught up in the commercialism of the season or out-giving someone else. You can give small, inexpensive gifts that mean a lot.
When it comes to our kids or grandkids, it’s hard to not go overboard! We love them and want to bless them. But think about how much you give them all year long. Don’t let Christmas become a time that is focused just on what we get. The more we give them, the more they will expect.
I’ll never forget one year when I was teaching, I found another teacher at her desk after school crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that she and her husband had given such extravagant gifts to their children every year, that she didn’t know how they could continue to top the year before. She was afraid her kids would be disappointed with Christmas.
Instead of trying to make our kids happy with more stuff, what if we show them that stuff doesn’t truly make us happy?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Keep these thoughts in mind when you plan your budget, and you can always go by the three gift rule: something wanted, something needed, and something spiritual. (Here’s a great post on that).
When you plan your budget, remember to include things such as food, decorations, and stocking stuffers. Those are the areas that usually cause us to go over budget because we didn’t consider them, but they really add up!
Next, shop the list, not the mall.
What I mean here is, don’t just “go shopping” and get caught up in the thrill of the mall at the holidays. It can be tempting, but you do know the stores are working overtime to get you to fall for their marketing plan, right? They have a strategy in place to increase their sales (as they should), but you can be strategic as well.
Decide ahead of time that you will not use credit and go into debt during the holidays. Only buy what you can pay for or at least pay off in thirty days.
“Owe no man anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).
Look for sales and coupons ahead of time that match the needs on your list. You can shop online to avoid the temptations if necessary, just beware of shipping costs. But even if you love to shop at Christmas time, remember you can go to only the stores that have what you need. Make those purchases, and then just enjoy the holiday fun.
Many businesses will host a holiday open house with free cider or coffee and good sales. Look over your list and plan to attend those that will meet your needs. Stick to your list and enjoy the festivities.
Also, keep it simple.
I know, I know, we all want the latest trends in decorating and fashion, but really, is it necessary? After we spend on all the things we feel we HAVE to have, do we really feel satisfied? Because no amount of lights or cards or gifts under the tree can truly make us content. Only our relationship with Jesus can meet our deepest needs.
So instead of seeking to have the most fabulous Christmas decor, the most amazing spread on the table, or the latest gadgets that will top last year’s gifts, why not strive for a simple Christmas focused on Jesus and His gift to us? We can spend and spend to create “memories” for our families, but they will mostly remember the conversations, the funny stories, the peace in our homes, and the warmth of family gathered around the tree to read the story of Christmas.
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2a).
We can get more thrill out of baking cookies with our kids and then delivering them to shut-ins than we would have gotten from an expensive spread on the table or the latest pre-lit tree.
Instead of making expensive plans to attend a show or shop at the mall, ask the Lord for creative ideas to share the love of Jesus with your family, neighbors, and friends. Attend worship services at local churches. Reach out to someone your family can pick up and take with you. Drive around to look at Christmas lights or go caroling with some friends.
Keep simple your budget, menu, and events. Focus on those that will center your hearts on Jesus.
Last, be comfortable saying no.
No to your kids when they want more than you can afford, no to that last-minute invite to an event that requires more food or gifts. No to the advertisements for things that are shiny, but not lasting.
And no to anything that distracts you from quiet time with the Lord.
Don’t let the busyness of the season keep you from your daily moments in the Word. A heart centered on Jesus will be less likely to fall into the overspending trap of the holidays.
“Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).
May God bless your holy days this year with His peace and His presence–a far more valuable gift than all that money can buy.