The Holidays are Coming: Time to Channel Your Inner (Pragmatic) Scrooge

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Do find yourself muttering bah humbug when the holidays roll around?  I used to feel that way.  The commercialism of the holiday season would make me want to stay in the house with the blinds drawn.  Christmas tunes playing in stores starting the day after Halloween, ads everywhere encouraging gift-purchasing for everyone under the sun, and crazy traffic and crowds at every store would completely do me in.

Ten years ago, when I had my daughter, however, something clicked in me and I got more interested in the holiday season.  I didn’t fall prey to all of the holiday commercial seduction, but I did feel more in the holiday spirit.  I have always secretly loved Christmas music, just not starting the day after Halloween.  I got excited about getting a Christmas tree and hanging stockings.

Perhaps having children inspires more of a holiday spirit in everyone.  The problem comes when the holiday spirit causes us to overindulge in all possible ways.  This time of year is the single biggest shopping season of the year.  Because people are in the holiday spirit, the tendency to overspend can be overwhelming.  Even careful shoppers can find it nearly impossible to avoid impulse buying.

In light of all the temptations, how can we avoid a holiday-inspired financial catastrophe?  It all starts with planning.  Thinking ahead about the holiday we want to have and carefully watching where our money goes are two imperatives.  Yes, it can take the spontaneity out of the season.  But I have found it worth losing some spontaneity in order to preserve financial sanity.

Let’s break down the process.

Know your weaknesses

You know where you tend to lose the consumer battle that happens this time of year.  Do you have a weakness for elf-themed trinkets?  Can’t resist holiday scented candles?  Where do you go crazy with your holiday splurges?  Understand where you tend to fall off the wagon, and then plan accordingly.  If you don’t want to be a total Scrooge, plan to indulge in ONE of your favorite weaknesses, but resolve to be strong with the rest of your budget.

Shop with a list

All season long.  Make a list, check it twice, bring it to the store, and stick to it.

Plan ahead

Think outside the shopping bag.  What sort of holiday do you want to have?  What makes your heart light up during this time of year?  Focus on the simple things that make the holidays special and plan more of those and fewer of the commercially-inspired traditions.

Prepare your family

If you want to approach the holiday season less commercially, have conversations with your family.  Let them know how you feel and suggest new traditions you can all enjoy.

Manage expectations

Especially if your holiday list involves children, start talking early about how the holiday will look.  Kids adapt perfectly well to a reduced gift haul if they understand the reasons and if fun, solid alternative traditions are substituted.  Involving them in the discussion and planning process will also increase their buy-in in creating a memorable, and less consumerist holiday season.

Use creative solutions instead of purchasing solutions

Think about making things for your holiday celebrations instead of defaulting to buying them.  As an example, nature provides lots of options for natural decoration, and wrapping gifts without commercial wrapping can provide families with a fun, creative project.  Making gifts instead of buying them also encourages getting in closer touch to the meaning of the season.

These ideas will get you started, but what would you add?  Feel free to share it below, or if you prefer, you can email me at  Or if you want to start a discussion with some like-minded friends, join the free SimpleMoney Community on Facebook to share your ideas!


You might also enjoy:

Inexpensive and Simple Ways to Celebrate the Holidays

Going into Debt for the Holidays is Not Worth Celebrating

When it Comes to Gifts, Under-Promise and Over-Deliver


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