Cheryl's Blog

Avoid this at all costs during the holidays.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving here in the states, I posted the following graphic and message on my Instagram account:

This morning I opened my inbox to a flurry of emails offering “50% off” sales. It’s Black Friday, the day when consumerism is raised to the level of a national holiday. To me, it’s a great day to remember the importance of smart financial self-care. Being a thoughtful steward with the money we have is the secret to creating more abundance.  Spend wisely. Live within your means. Say no to debt. Say yes to peace-of-mind and the reality that the most valuable assets in life are what the soul wants most:  Experiences. Connection. Growth. Love.  

My post received several comments from followers and one, in particular, caught my eye. It was from chemauca_art.  Here’s what she wrote:

“After my divorce, I had a 10 and 8-year-old and could no longer afford presents at Christmas.  So I cut spending to $20 per child and one $20 family gift.  I did not get anything (for myself).  Then, I went to a local arena where I was able to get snow because we hadn’t had any yet.  I made snowballs, put them in a big cooler, wrapped the cooler, and put it under the tree.  I then removed all the breakables and allowed the children to have a snowball fight in the house.  My kids are now 25 & 22 and it’s a memory they never forget.  Yes, to living within your means.  Believe me, my kids still love me a bunch and they tell me every day.”

I love her creativity and the emphasis on giving her children an experience rather than going into debt to make them happy.  Not only that, it sets a great example that might teach her kids to practice smart financial self-care as adults later on.

This is the time of year when it’s easy to go overboard with gift buying.  I’ve had my share of debt-filled anxiety going into the New Year because I spent more money than I should have in order to experience a few minutes of joy on a loved one’s face.  Not anymore.

There are so many creative ways to give the gift of experience.  You might write a letter to someone you love letting him or her know how much you appreciate them.  Or, you could arrange a festive, fun tour of the neighborhood to see Christmas lights while sipping hot cocoa and listening to holiday music.

Here’s something I’ve done in the past that’s been very well received.  It’s the kind of gift that could really make a difference in someone’s life.  It’s the gift of your time and talent.

Right now, there’s someone you care about who is burdened by a project they feel unequipped to handle.   Maybe there’s a family member who has trouble getting organized, or a friend who would love assistance with holiday decorating.  Instead of spending money on gifts, why not offer to help out?  You could say something like:

 “Hey Maggie, I know we all have a project or task hanging over our heads that we keep meaning to get done. This year, rather than buy you a gift, I thought I’d offer to help you get a project completed. If you’re willing, why don’t you spend some time this week thinking about something we could do together, and when I call you back next Monday, let me know what you’ve come up with and we’ll schedule a date. How does that sound?”

There are several benefits to giving this kind of gift. First, you relieve a loved one of the emotional stress that comes from procrastination. Second, you give this person an on-going reminder of how much you care.  After all, if you help a friend organize a kitchen closet, he or she will think of you (and feel loved) every time they open the door. Third, giving the gift of your time adds less stuff to the planet.  And finally, it gives you a chance to spend meaningful time together.

Like it or not, the state of our finances has a powerful impact on our emotional and physical health as well as our ability to make choices that lead to an ideal life.  I like feeling free from money stress and I bet you do, too.  No more unconscious gift buying for me.  As much as I love my family and friends, I love my sanity more .

xo Cheryl

P.S. – This week’s Facebook Live will be held on Tuesday, December 4th at 12pm EST/9am PST.  You can watch past sessions on my YouTube channel at CherylRichardsonTV here.

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