Since 2020 has been anything but normal, it’s easy to anticipate that Christmas will be different. But what changes will occur to your family celebration this year? And what never changes from year to year?
As the holidays approach, retailers have begun to announce how their plans look different. Many retailers started promoting Christmas shipping in October, rather than concentrating sales in a 24-hour window on Black Friday, thus eliminating crowded stores. Early shopping also gives us more time and pressure to fall victim to all the advertising about the perfect Christmas.
Many consumers will minimize in-store shopping to reduce health risks to themselves and essential workers. We will see more online shopping, and curbside pickups.
While retailers will still sell the typical gifts such as clothes, electronics, toys and gadgets, experts are also predicting that consumers will flock to non-traditional gifts. After spending more time than normal at home, and being faced with so much turmoil, many consumers will give gifts that are meaningful and more personal than normal.
Spending will be down this year. In 2019, the average family spent $1,000 on Christmas. I anticipate most families will spend 30-50% less this year. Covid-19 has affected the financial security of many families, which is making them more careful with spending. Even if you are financially well off, what about your friends, family and neighbors? Are they able to keep up with the overspending most families do at Christmas? Or are they pressured into spending money they don’t have in order to keep up with everyone around them?
If your feeling of happiness, peace and joy comes with a price tag, you’ll never be content no matter how much you spend at Christmas. The poorest people can be content, while all the money in the world can’t buy contentment.
Take a long hard look at Christmas last year. What brought you a sense of contentment and happiness and what added to your holiday stress? The key is to plan Christmas so you can do more of what gave you a feeling of peace, contentment and joy and less of those things that brought stress and anxiety.
Maybe the kids really enjoyed going to midnight Mass, or maybe they were so tired and cranky that midnight Mass was a disaster. Maybe traveling halfway around the country to visit grandparents was the best thing ever or maybe it was a debacle because the kids really missed being at home for Christmas. Maybe your Christmas spending was well planned or maybe it was out of control and you ended up facing an avalanche of bills in January.
It’s time for planning to do more of what went well and figuring out how to avoid the messes. Now is also the time to have the discussion with other family members and friends about cutting back on Christmas spending. They will probably be as relieved as you are to simplify things.
If we believe the commercials, we have to buy things people don’t need in order to satisfy our gift giving obligation in an effort to make them happy. And you and I know that Christmas can be one of the most frustrating times of the year when it comes to obligatory gift giving.
The pressure to buy makes it easy to understand why the number one fear of people during Christmas is debt. Unfortunately, people willingly put themselves in that position. There is no law requiring us to overspend at Christmas—it’s a choice we make!
Don’t put your important long term financial goals at risk by spending money buying gifts people don’t want or need. You probably have much higher financial priorities. Once your priorities are in order, keeping the Christmas spending under control becomes much easier.
If money is tight, cut down on the number of gifts you’re giving until your finances are in better shape. Instead of trying to buy gifts for each person, decide to draw names and each person buys for one other person. This could be a tough call and you may have a lean Christmas in order to get ahead, but there will be no long-term financial harm from spending less.
Being pressured to make Christmas perfect, have a mountain of toys for the kids, and spend a ton of money buying gifts for every aunt, uncle, friend, neighbor and 5th cousin 10 times removed makes for a stressful holiday.
The lockdown has made us slow down, focus on what is really important in life and enjoy the simple pleasures. At Christmas more than any other time of year, it’s crucial to focus on what’s really important. This year, we may not be able to enjoy the same holiday traditions like large gatherings or traveling to visit with loved ones who live far away. But with enough planning and fore thought, this Christmas can be just as special as any in the past when you focus on what is the same from Christmas to Christmas.
Despite the social distancing, the lockdown, the political turmoil and the financial impacts, what hasn’t changed is the gift of God made man. 2 Corinthians 9:15 reads: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
The most important thing you and I can do is to remember why we’re celebrating Christmas—the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. In the busyness of the season, it takes an intentional effort to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, to have a spirit that’s ready to worship the Christ of Christmas.
The only gift anyone really needs at Christmas is the Baby Jesus. And that Baby in the manger is one thing that has stayed the same each and every Christmas for the last 2020 years!