For as far back as I can remember, I have loved Christmas.  The smell of fresh paint and varnish signaling the beginning of the season.  Oh, the bustling at the markets, the smell of apples (red delicious) lingering in the air – all in anticipation of the ‘day’.  Imagine going to bed on Christmas Eve with the house in disarray and awaking on Christmas morning to the smells of fresh baked bread, Black Forest ham, and eggs.  You hurry out of bed only to be greeted by a newness all around you – fresh new drapery, well-lit Christmas tree with presents underneath.  A feeling of heaven engulfs you at that moment, and for the next two weeks.  Yes, you heard that right, the holiday cheer went on for two weeks into the new year.

Leaving my native land and coming to Canada (the land of opportunity) changed how my family celebrated Christmas.  There was a focus on gift giving, not just to the children in the family, but to the adults (inside and outside the immediate family).  The first question I heard on my first day back to school was, “What did you get for Christmas?”.  I longed for Christmases past, and did not appreciate the commercialization of the season.

I still love the sights and sounds of Christmas – up until recently, I continued the traditions I grew up with and incorporated a White Christmas to the list of things I enjoy about the season.

Christmas is about sharing the good message of peace, joy and happiness.  It should never be about the gifts, especially if you must go into debt to provide these gifts.  I was horrified when as a loans officer a 25-year-old came into my office requesting a loan of $2,500 to purchase gifts for people he had never met (extended family visiting from abroad).  Why was there a need to do this?   It was expected of him, and he did not want to disappoint.  I cringed at the thought, but he was not to be dissuaded.

Is there a better way?  Besides advising you to live and spend within your means (some of you may scuff at this thought), I am going to recommend using a budget.  Sit down and decide the maximum amount you are going to spend on gifts this year (without having to go into debt) and find creative ways to make that work for you.  Some examples are:

  1. One gift per family instead of a gift for each member in the family
  2. Purchase for the grandchildren – not the adult children
  3. Use your creativity and made or bake your gifts
  4. Draw names or play the “White Elephant” game – make up your own rules
  5. Think of your best Christmas ever, and see if you can replicate that.
  6. Charitable giving is not just about money – give the gift of time
  7. What are the blessings in your life, and how can you help another to have similar experiences? 

If you have decided you would like a bigger Christmas shopping budget for 2021, decide how much that is, divide it by 12, and start a high interest savings account in January by depositing 1/12 each month (I.e.: Budget $2,400/12= $200 per month).  Budgeting = Planning for Success.

Why not try something new this year – put away the credit card(s), refuse to go into overdraft or use the line of credit.  Give the gift that keeps on giving, leave a legacy behind – a legacy of Love.