Avoiding the Holiday Blues Tip #3

Check Yo self before You Wreck Yo self

 Christmas is an emotional conundrum for me.  I get tied in knots the closer we get to December 25th.  I’m not sure where these feelings began or where they are from, I just know they are deep.  Every year it seems I wait until the last week or so to start shopping.  I completely violate tip #2 (Financial planning). It comes from a lack of preparation that I create my own dilemma.  It is also derived from an intense need to please others and to be liked.  I have discovered that I am really insecure and Christmas brings it out in the worst way for me.  It has happened time and time again.

The worst example I can think of is Christmas 2004.  This was the first year of the new iPod.  They were so cool.  But, man they were expensive.  There’s no way I could afford that for the kids.  At least, that’s what I was thinking.  The closer we got to the big day, the weaker I got. There were lots of gift options. But none seemed as fantastic as the new apple contraption.  Without consulting Carol, I drove to the store and got the ipods.  I didn’t tell her at all.  I wanted everyone to be surprised on Christmas.  Or, I didn’t want her to pour cold water on my ipod idea and if I waited till Christmas there was nothing she could do about it.  Oops, there’s a confession for you.  I knew she would want me to take them back, or, at least she would challenge my financial considerations.  I wasn’t willing to deal with any of that.

I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning and the kids to open their gifts.  I was so excited, I couldn’t sit still.  I vaguely remember getting them up so I could spring my surprise on them.  They were teenagers a no longer got up at the crack of dawn.  This would be the best Christmas ever, I could be voted “father of the year” with presents like these.  They were so surprised.  I’ll never forget the look on their faces, it was priceless. I had hit the jackpot, I’m the man, yea baby!  The look on Carol’s face was not as joyful.  I could tell she was not pleased.  She did not let it show too much and the kids never knew that dad had really “done it this time”.   In the months that followed this purchase was a major topic of discussion for the two of us.  The discoveries were deep as we evaluated the ramifications of my choices.

At that point in our lives we had come to an arrangement regarding major purchases.  We would be in agreement.  No surprises, no concession, no bullying, no manipulation, just oneness in spirit.  Well, obviously I had violated this big time.  Carol was hurt and I couldn’t blame her.  As Ricky Ricardo would say “I’ve got some splannin’ to do”.  I had to search deep in my heart.  Was this about the kids?  Or, was this about me? How could I justify $800 in presents with our finances the way they were.  The fact is, I put it on a credit card and I’m not sure when it got paid off.  I wonder how much interest I paid?  Ouch, just thinking about this makes my stomach hurt.

Here’s the truth:  I love to give gifts.  I love to grab checks.  I love to be generous.  I don’t care if it costs me interest.  The problem is:  I do it for me.  It makes me feel good.  it make me feel successful.  It swells my pride.  Oops there it is.  It’s pride.  It’s embarrassing to admit that my pride is a prominent part of my decision making.  It’s pride that buys what I want to, when I want to, and how I want to.  It’s pride that doesn’t “check in with the warden” to see if we are on the same financial page.

The point of all this is:  we need to discover our motivations before we embark on Christmas spending (debt).  We say it’s not about the gifts.  But isn’t it?  I’m still discovering all the pride and junk stored up in my heart/mind.  So, this Christmas let’s check our thoughts, intentions, motivations, fears, guilt, remorse, and surrender them to Christ.  Maybe our gifts will have more meaning and will be lest costly, both relationally and financially.

 

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” Proverbs 20:5 (NIV)

Avoiding the Holiday Blues Tip #2

The only thing worse than the extra 10 pounds that we put on over the last two months of the year, is the tens, hundreds, and even thousands of dollars of debt we can accumulate. The shock we get when the bills roll in can set us back quite a bit.  The frustration and bitterness is the most miserable lingering effect.  All of this can be avoided, or at least expected, if we do a little budgeting.  Money is one of the most difficult topics for couples to tackle.  Taking the time to work through these issues will go a long way to building harmony and peace.  It can also help curb the interest rate charges we will be getting soaked with.

Tip #2 Financial Planning

  • Gifts- If we don’t set a specific budget for each gift there will be no guidelines to follow.  This puts particular pressure on our wives.  If we don’t set the boundaries, they have no way to confidently purchase presents.  What typically happens is; purchases get made on credit cards without much thought of the debt.  We get frustrated every time we get a bill or see a bag of gifts.  Then our wives feel bad because we are upset, yet we did not provide any leadership for them to follow in the first place.  We just get mad and tell them something to the effect, “We can’t let this get out of hand.”  Ironically, it  really doesn’t mean anything.  There must be specific guidelines and specific dollar amounts to work with.  Worse yet, we start to feel guilty that we haven’t bought anything, so we run off to Walmart, Target or even worse the mall.  We don’t coordinate with our wives and she feels the double standard.  A gift budget can help prevent the impulse purchases that can hurt the most. If we don’t provide this kind of leadership, we don’t have the right to be angry when the bills come.
  • Food-  Feeding the masses can be very expensive.  A well thought out menu can go a long way to corralling the food costs.  The real food expense comes when we eat out.  This is where the “check grabber” in me comes out.  It’s really important to have a financial plan for these occasions.
  • Travel-  If we are on the road to see our loved ones, gas and hotels can drive up an already mounting debt.  With a little thought and research we can have an idea of what the basic costs will be.  It’s better to have an idea of what we are facing than getting surprised and having a melt-down on the road as we go share some holiday cheer…..HA!

 

It’s time to get a handle on the finances.  If we don’t now, we will regret it in January.

Avoiding the Holiday Blues Tip #1

The holidays are a time to rejoice, eat, party, celebrate, visit, eat, drive, spend, did I mention eat?  It starts with Halloween, lots of candy, overindulgence of sugar and poor dietary choices.  This moves quickly to Thanksgiving;  family comes to town, more eating, football, spending, arguing, clean up and eat again (love those leftovers).  Then, we stay up all night to save a few bucks on gifts that we can’t really afford.  Is it true that this time of year brings out the best and worst of us?

The hope that the holidays bring is only exceeded by the conflict and debt it produces.  We all want to connect with family.  We all want to celebrate the birth of Christ.  We all want to enjoy traditions that have been passed from generation to generation.  Why does it seem these are the most stressful, pain-filled, heart-ache days of our year?  This, to be followed by the start of a new year that forces us to make pledges of change.

Why not start now with change?  Let’s learn from holidays past to make this a great season of worship and family.

Here’s the deal men, it’s time to get in the game.  All too often, in an effort to be compliant we just go along with the flow and try not to make a mess of things. We think we are leading, in fact, we are just conceding. Concession will ultimately lead to resentment and that’s usually what happens in January after the dust has settled.  Well, I don’t think that is how the people of God should act.  We all end up disconnected, hurt, tired, frustrated and broke when the new year rolls around.  Here are some ideas to get you in engaged, so you can fully enjoy this most Holy of seasons.

Tip #1:  Make a plan.

Proverbs 29:18a “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV)

It’s not too late, you still can do.  Without a specific goal, there is no way to know where you are going or if you are making good time.  To fully enjoy this season a strategy is very useful.  This will mean an investment of time.  Gentlemen, your wives have been planning this for quite a while.  It’s time for you to get on board and become an active participant in this endeavor.  You are going to have to get together with her, make an appointment if need be, and get pen and paper and start to set plans and goals.  It’s like painting a room.  Preparation is the key to having a beautiful paint job.  You must tape everything, have the right tools, drop cloths in place, ladders, brushes, etc.  If you don’t, it’s going to be a mess.  It’s the same with planning the holidays.  You have to take the time to get on the same page:

  1. Look at the schedule.  Who is coming and when.  Who is picking up at the airport and where are they staying?  What events are we committed to?  Which ones are optional?  You should coordinate your calendars so she knows what work responsibilities you are dealing with and how much freedom you have.  If we get on the same page it can keep me from being defensive if I have a lot on my plate and she starts to add things to it.  This will also help me understand how full her plate is and how I can help ease her burden.  This needs to be a team effort.  Does she feel like I’m on her team or working against her?
  2. Meal planning.  Ladies are always carrying this by themselves.  Why should they?  Can we help shop?  Of course we can.  In most cases we don’t think to ask.  If we are asking, “How can I help?”, she won’t have to feel like she is “bugging me” when she asks me to run to the store.  Help her think through what the meals can look like and who will do the cooking. You can cook a breakfast or two if need be. This will also keep you from being disappointed with leftovers, or a depleted pantry.  It’s better to get involved than just to complain, “….we don’t have anything to eat around here.”
  3. Travel.  If you are traveling to see family, this is an important part of the plan.  Driving can cause a great deal of tension in the family.  If we plan accordingly we can avoid some of this tension.  Men: take your time!  This is not a race.  You can make this trip more enjoyable if you relax and allow everyone to be comfortable with your driving and take time for potty stops.  Plan on making the drive fun; play games like the alphabet game, or calling out the states of license plates etc. Try not to drive too far each day, you will wear yourself out before you even get there. Don’t be too cheap to get a hotel, it will cost you a lot more in the end if you don’t!   Be sure to reserve your hotel room (I learned this one the hard way).
  4. Games/Activities.  This is where you can really shine men.  Get everyone involved in charades, board games, or outside activities.  This will keep the kids active and away from technology.  It’s family time, not time to disappear into a phone, computer or a video game.  We must plan to make the most of these times or it won’t happen.  Your wife does not want to make you have to do this, she wants it to be your idea.  She knows you are a lot more enthusiastic about your ideas, than hers.  If you have a lot of family, making last minute activity plans can be a nightmare and create lots of conflict.  Take charge (while still being patient) and make the most of these plans.

“He who fails to plan, is planning to fail”- Winston Churchill