The Gift of Holiday Debt: Money vs. Meaning

Making the Holidays More Meaningful

Even though Black Friday started around June this year, extending beyond Super Saturday, Spend-Everything Sunday, and Cyber Monday into Colonoscopy Tuesday,  Bankruptcy Wednesday, and Foreclosure Thursday, spending is apparently down this year.


This means that retailers are in a panic about making sure their sales stay put until they have drawn from you the last possible droplet of blood left in your wallet/savingsaccount/401k. “Panic sales” is how a Bloomberg financial analyst describes the pressure that will be put upon U.S. chain stores like Walmart and Target (insert angel choir sound here) to make up for the loss incurred during the official beginning of the “holiday shopping season.”

The loss? 2.9%. Sounds meager, but that represents a little over two billion dollars. According to the National Retail Foundation (NRF), more people shopped (141 million shoppers compared to last year’s 139 million), but they spent less money.

Which, one would imagine, might induce some panic-type reactions. Until we find out that although there was a decrease in purchases, people still spent $57.4 billion over Thanksgiving weekend.

Fifty seven point four billion. Dollars. 57.4. BILLION. That’s a lot of Benjamins. Enough to make it rain all over the greater metropolis of every major city.

The numbers suggest I should feel bad for these corporations, but I don’t. I feel bad for the millions of people who feel like they have to spend every last hard-earned penny they cannot afford to spend to make the holidays count. I understand how buying into the consumerist culture is important, even when it creates budget problems, because I do it every year. Many people go into debt every year providing a holiday with the latest trending toys and shiny new gadgets because not doing so seems like some kind of failure.

How have we let ourselves become consumed by consuming during the holidays?

How can we really make meaning of the holidays outside of feeling obligated to buy, buy, and buy some more?


Creating Tradition

Pick something that you and your family love to do, whether it’s visiting a certain place, sharing a favorite meal, or watching a favorite movie. Make sure to incorporate the activity, experienced together, every year so that it becomes a tradition to which to look forward.

Slow Down

The holidays can be an extremely busy and stressful time of year. We often are ten steps ahead of ourselves, worrying about future plans. Take a few moments for yourself, or with your loved ones, to just sit back and be present in the moment.

Give Back

Being overwhelmed with plans and holiday-related stress can really blind us to the issues that other people are facing. Millions of people are hungry and homeless this time of year. Giving back to your community, in whatever way you can, is a great way of giving someone else some holiday cheer and making meaning for your own life.


Passing The Generosity On

You can also include your kids in on helping others. Help them pick some of their own toys to donate to children in need. This teaches them selflessness and can create a special type of tradition.


Breathing is a way of grounding ourselves. Taking a few deep breaths ensures your self-care and keeps you in the now. You can worry about tomorrow later. Breathe and be thankful for today.

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