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The Honest Christmas

Your abundant love for your children, spouse, and others is not defined by an (over)abundance of holiday gifts.


If your everyday life is one of constant financial pressure, then the holidays are especially tough on you. If you still have any room on your credit cards or any other kind of credit, it is so difficult to not use that credit for gifts and holiday celebrations.

That’s especially true if you have children. Every ounce of your parenthood is pushing you to create a happy and memorable Christmas for them. You know you can’t afford to add to your debt and you hate to do it, but there just isn’t nearly enough in the regular paycheck to pay for it. After all, you sure can’t do without a Christmas tree, or without the family feast that’s been the tradition forever. And of course the kids need at least a few decent gifts—they don’t deserve a miserable holiday. Nor does your spouse or other special person.

All true. It is necessary and appropriate to celebrate. To enjoy our precious times of togetherness.

It’s easy for others to tell you not to use your credit cards, but they’re not in your shoes.

Sure, real love is not dependent on the monetary value of gifts, and yet love yearns to be expressed through the giving of gifts.

Everybody knows that they should live within their means, buy non-necessities like gifts only out of their spare income, and save up over the rest of the year for holiday gifts. But sometimes this is all virtually impossible.

We know that we should not judge our own worth—as a parent, spouse, or friend—by the price tag of the gifts we give to our loved ones. And yet we DO feel inadequate if we can’t give them “enough.”

So what’s a financially stressed person to do?

We grudgingly admit that we should have age-appropriate conversations with our children about the true meaning of the holidays, and about the appropriate role of gifts. We know that we should have similar honest conversations with our spouses and other adults we share a home with. At least a part of us accepts that more than anything we need to be honest—again in an age-appropriate way—with both the adults and the children in our lives about our financial limitations. We need to communicate clearly that our abundant love for them is not bound up in abundant gifts. And certainly not in overabundant gifts.

It takes serious bravery to have these conversations. And it all starts with what might be the bravest step of all: a good honest conversation with yourself about all this. You know you are in a vicious cycle of debt, and don’t see any way out. The last thing you need to do is add to your financial pressure. Instead, face your situation. Be completely honest with yourself about where you stand. Be honest about your fears. About how you don’t see a way out. Recognize that that there IS a way out. Then think about what concrete steps you can take to find the best way. Think about where you can find out some answers (such as the phone number on this website).

As you get honest with yourself, get honest with the people you love. Celebrate your love and friendship in a less material but more meaningful way. Celebrate true to the season. 

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