By Cheryl Johnson
A crucial time of year is approaching for families trying to reduce debt. The holidays are always difficult to get through without increasing debt. I've found this to be especially true with my own family. Reflecting on previous years it's hard to say where my troubles began. When I was a single parent I had the blessings of a great family infrastructure and a "secret Santa"; Both showered my children excessively with gifts at Christmas time. I call them blessings. However, had I a crystal ball at the time I would have definitely approached the subject of Christmas much differently. More frugally on the commercial side and more aggressively on the spiritual or celebration side.
It is especially important during the holiday season to keep focused on financial goals. It's so easy to get distracted from goals with the excitement and anticipation of children mounting each day the holiday grows closer. I found it so easy in the past to switch priorities with the flip of a credit card! My children's happiness and their expectations easily rose above the need to be debt free each and every passing year. And so here I am today, still paying for Christmas's past and planning how I will approach a debt free Christmas.
For years I had been telling the kids "This year Christmas will be lean. We just don't have as much money to spend this year." I had already discussed with the kids the changes in our financial situation. I explained in every detail how we got in debt, how important it was for our future to get out of debt, and how I had planned to accomplish eliminating the debt. Needless to say it was a rude awakening for them. But, even though I had made the speech, my actions did not confirm commitments at Christmas time.
Each and every year I would over ride my sensibilities and splurge, always finding new credit or increased credit limits to subsidize the holiday. I knew this was a huge mistake. How could they take me seriously with such a blatant display of extravagance? But, I continued to do it anyway. Just a perfect example of how we let our emotions control our actions.
But then came the year after. The year after I had maxed out every card and could no longer get additional or new credit extended. The year that I had no choice but to live up to my commitment. I must say it was rough. But I do believe in hind sight that it was harder for me than it was for them. So what's a parent to do? Be honest! It's always the best policy.
Of course, since my children were no longer under the influence of the "Santa" legend, my job was made easier. I sat down with them again but this time I showed them the money so to speak. Or rather, the lack of money. I explained each and every expense in the budget. I compared it to our income. I showed them, on paper, that we were living on the bare minimum.
Then, I explained about our debt and how Christmas's past had contributed greatly to the problem. I stressed that this was money I spent, that I did not have, and that now was the time I had to pay back. I also explained that this would be the first year that I would not have those credit cards to turn to. I had no other option but to follow through with what I had been saying for years; This Christmas would in fact be very different.
If you still have young children and you choose to de-commercialize the holidays, I recommend implementing some celebration changes now. Focusing more on the actual celebration, or spirit, of Christmas and minimizing the importance of gifts. Certainly a few specially selected or created gifts are more appreciated than an abundance of senseless short lived gifts.
Teaching children how to choose or create gifts based on the recipients interests or needs is the best practice. I learned the importance of choosing just the right gifts because of neccessity. I also realized how senseless it is to over give. It is the few truly cherished gifts that stay the course. Abundance is discarded almost immediately! I saw it with my own eyes year after year.
I know in an ever evolving technological society, the task of creative giving becomes more and more difficult. However, I also believe that the more technological our society becomes, the more we will miss, and long for, the simpler days of living. I'm already missing them and we've only just begun the technical revolution. Much technology today is short lived and constantly updating. It's hard to keep up without going into debt if you live on a modest income.
Show your children a more meaningful Christmas now and not only might you save yourself some money, you won't find yourself trying to explain a lean Christmas holiday. Put it in perspective before it gets out of hand and everyone is saved a lot of disappointment and reality shock!
Everyone deserves the right to live debt free. Being financially secure and independent is an option everyone can choose. Review the Three Simple Steps to Successful Debt Elimination.
If you use all Debt Free Living strategies together you will be successful in achieving a debt free life...
Budget your money to live within your means.
Use a variety of money saving tips and strategies to save money everyday on everything you buy and do!
Eliminate debt and learn to manage credit properly.
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