The Christmas countdown is under way. Manufacturers of toys, electronic games, and gifts are hoping that you and I will buy their latest items for our nearest-and-dearest. Retailers are hoping we’ll help them set new record sales figures for Christmas spending. Banking institutions are hoping we’ll put all our purchases on our credit cards!
While many corporations are hoping that gift-giving will again be front and centre this year, some charitable organizations are concerned that some people will spend more than they can afford. The urge to spend what we have— and, sadly, what we don’t have, can be fuelled by advertising, our desire to keep up with others, or simply to give someone the best gift money can buy.
Although it’s fairly obvious that getting into more credit card debt isn’t the wisest thing for our finances, surprisingly it’s also not good for our health. In an article titled “Debt problems impact negatively on people’s health” , a debt counselling charity group reports that “More than eight out of 10 people with debt problems say their financial difficulties are having a negative effect on their lives. Nearly half of those questioned said their problems had a very negative impact on their health, with some suffering a nervous breakdown, loss of hair, palpitations and cessation of menstruation. Only 6% said it had no effect.”
It seems unfortunate, that this time of year which traditionally has been about love, peace and good will to men, is causing some of us to feel stressed, depressed, and mentally burdened-down with all of the festive cheer. So how can we change our spending habits and stay debt-free? How can we maintain our mental balance and feel well?
One method that came to my rescue when I badly needed to cut debt and remove pre-Christmas worry, was prayer. I know this may be surprising, but prayer had helped me solve other problems in my life. I hoped that prayerful meditation would guide me to some practical, stress-reducing, budget-saving ideas regarding Christmas spending. So I sat at my desk, grabbed a pen and some paper, calmed my unsettled thinking, and waited for “divine inspiration”.
Here are the ideas that came to me. Adopt a spiritual approach to spending at Christmas. That is, pray before hitting the stores or the computer button. Be inspired about what to buy for friends and family. Think more about their likes and needs. Don’t feel rushed or pressured to get the shopping done. Stay calm, serene. Put more thought into gift-giving rather than relying on impulse-buying. Don’t feel competitive about buying expensive gifts. Christmas is giving from right motives. It’s not about the cost of a gift.
This led me to ask myself what I could ‘give’ if I didn’t have much money to spend on gifts. I recalled how each Christmas, my grandmother and her siblings received a penny and an orange. I thought it was a paltry gift until I realized that if you celebrated Christmas in the wintry depths of Scotland, as they did, a summer orange was a very special gift. So what could I give that was special?
At the top of my list was one word – love, the active caring kind of love. There are many ways of expressing such love. You can spend extra time with someone, cook them a meal, offer to garden for them, or take them for a drive to see the neighbourhood Christmas lights. Or it could be taking the time to purchase a meaningful and thoughtful gift. Another kind of love is to be an un-hurried, un-harried, unruffled shopper, driver, friend, neighbour or family member.
As a result of such prayer-based shopping preparation, Christmas no longer spoils my happiness and wellbeing. I’m completely on top of things and stress-free. What’s more, I’ve stayed out of credit card debt. I’ve learned to be a healthy, responsible giver—and spender—during Christmas.