I love Christmas. And while I generally recognize the wisdom of the philosophy “less is more” through most of the year, at Christmas time, I let more be more. Our Christmas lights are up outside; we’ve chosen our tree and have wrapped the first garlands around it; I baked shortbread cookies and Nanaimo bars last week-end; I sent Christmas cards out in the mail two days ago. DD1 will be arriving in less than a week! It’s been a full year since we’ve had her home. And plans are starting to evolve: plans to go out with family, with friends from high school days, friends from work, friends from church.
Christmas While Getting Out Of Debt
DD1 = Dear First Daughter
DH = Dear Husband
We’ll be hosting Christmas dinner at our house. There will be four generations of family, twenty-seven people in all sitting down to a meal here. Everyone will bring a dish, and there will be turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, bread, roasted vegetables, salad, and a whole range of desserts. After dinner there will be ping-pong, pool, a game of charades, and singing around the piano. This is what Christmas is like for us. And I know that make us very, very lucky.
I remember a few years ago watching Cast Away with my class the day or two before Christmas break. There’s a Christmas dinner scene in the movie, just before Tom Hanks’ character leaves on his ill-fated flight. One of my students whispered to me, “Miss, is that what your Christmas is like?” I didn’t understand what she was getting at. Lots of food; lots of family; candles, Christmas lights, decorations – it looked very familiar to me. So I answered, “Yes.” She said, “I’ve never had a Christmas like that.” She told me that her dad didn’t do anything special at Christmas time, and her mom wasn’t in the picture, so she and her friend would go to a movie theatre for the day, as they had the previous December 25th. My heart went out to her. I could feel her longing for what she was seeing in the movie. When you hear of the difference it makes to give an anonymous gift or to buy items for a food bank or in some other way to make a donation for people who struggle and for whom this is a very difficult time of year, it’s not sentiment. It’s very real.
So is it really necessary to allow considerations of debt repayment to enter the scene at this point? For the sake of family and friends and celebration and giving, can’t we just put that whole thing on hold? Just for one month? No. DH and I agreed that Christmas would be on a budget this year. Two week-ends ago he was annoyed with me because I’d started shopping without our having established a plan of action. I soon thereafter became annoyed with him because he would not put aside his mountains of business (very welcome business!) to sit down with me and actually define that plan. With fierce intention, we carved out a period of time and started in on the numbers. Are we feeling Christmas yet?
I remember wondering in November, a month that included an extra paycheque for me and a business expenses claim for DH, what had happened to the very same windfall at the end of last year. I realize now that Christmas happened. DH and I spent somewhere around $2,500 on presents alone. Eeek! On top of that, there were five restaurant meals with friends and family. There were ski days. Movie days. Shopping days. And then there are always the expenses of wrapping paper, cards, host & hostess gifts, baking . . . I hope I don’t ever become jaded, but the money flow at Christmas time can be obscene. In fact it was for us last year. And perhaps the year before.
This year will be different. Our plan is balanced, and allows for a finite abundance. Presents will come in at about $1,000. There are plans for two restaurant meals. Ski days? Movie days? I hope so! But here’s the rule of thumb: We will not go into debt to finance Christmas this year. And that will be a first.
“Remember what Christmas is for,” we are occasionally reminded at this time of year. “It’s about Jesus’ birth.” That doesn’t altogether clarify things for me with regards to monetary restraint though. I understand Jesus to be someone who enjoyed gathering with friends to break bread and to celebrate. He was all for giving to the needy. And his birth was worthy of the lavish gifts bestowed by the wise men. I don’t want to be a debt-ridden dupe of the commercialized sentiment of Christmas, but I don’t want to stingy my way out of the celebration either. The learning curve involved in our definition of a plan for Christmas has been sharp, but we’re moving ahead with it now. More is still more; it’s just not in debt.
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