Despite what marketing executives would have us believe, the Holiday Season is not a warm, carefree, or cozy time for many of us, if not most of us. The season is packed with stress—emotional stress, time stress, expectations stress, financial stress… the list goes on. I will bet money that financial stress is in the top three, for sure.
As a Financial Counselor, I hear common refrains in my office from the people I serve when talking about how to reduce expenses by trimming gift-giving: ‘The other grandparents go all out for Christmas.’ ‘My siblings make more money than I do, and don’t want to change what we do as a family.’ ‘My ex buys everything the kids ask for.’ I understand the anxiety. We are social creatures and need acceptance and love. But, what really creates that acceptance and love?
I read an article last year about how spending money on experiences brings longer lasting happiness than spending money on material goods. (It is an interesting article.) I recently looked it up again and it made me stop and think about my childhood memories.
I don’t remember the toys I got at Christmas. I do remember the flannel nightgown from Sears I got each year—not the color or pattern, but the comfy softness of the new flannel and how wonderful it felt to fall asleep in it.
There is one toy I do remember and still have more than 50 years later—an octopus made of yarn from my grandmother. She gave it to me with a name: Priscilla Lavae. It was made from scrap yarn and the head filled with old nylon stockings. We made it together. The scene is still vivid in my mind and evokes warm feelings. With 22 grandchildren, the opportunity to have my own time with Gram was indeed very special. Today when I look down at the countless brown age spots on my hands, I don’t say “Ugh.” Instead I am reminded of Gram and her spotted hands guiding mine while we made Priscilla Lavae.
And, I think of my beloved Uncle Joe… I don’t recall the things he gave me, I remember driving around the mines on the Iron Range, with a special tour of downtown Buhl. (If you are ever on the Range in Northern Minnesota take a side trip to drive through Buhl and you’ll understand the thrill it was for a young city kid.) He told me stories and was clearly happy to be spending time with his niece. He made me feel loved.
With minimal expense these two adults cemented my adoration of them for my lifetime. It was all about spending time, not money. So, this Christmas, focus on the memory-building experiences. If you are a grandparent, use the gift of your time. Take a drive with your grandchild. Talk with them—tell stories about their early childhood, or their parent’s, or your own.
Make something with them and teach them a lasting skill. If you are “competing” with your ex for love, you can be sure the children will remember the competition and not the love. Just show the love with time and attention, make it about them and not the ex. And, bowing to the pressure to spend more than you want will only create resentment. No happy memories there. If your grandmother taught you to crochet, make something even as simple as a dishcloth. Every time that person uses it, they will think of you.
Thank you for indulging me in my trip down memory lane. I enjoyed it, shed some tears and feel happy. Give the gift of happy memories to your loved ones!
Cutting back on expenses is just one piece of the financial puzzle. If you’re feeling like you’ll never complete that puzzle, give LSS Financial Counseling a call today at 888.577.2227 or GET STARTED ONLINE. We will work with you to create tangible action steps to conquer your debt…with the ultimate goal of financial freedom.
Author Mary Ellen Kaluza is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and she specializes in Debt and Budget Counseling and Financial Education.