Here’s the thing about holidays. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's and more….it’s all about smiling. We smile looking at the glamour of the mall, the Merry Christmas photos where everyone is grinning ear to ear, those annual Christmas letters from everyone (yep, I’ve succumbed to it too) where we talk about how fabulous everything has been all year (that part I generally manage to avoid) and every movie is all about cheer. Commercials show us Mom baking up a storm in the kitchen with the almost professionally decorated living room in the background. A boatload of sparkly gifts lay under the tree and it truly is the season to be jolly. For some of us.
How about you?
The fact is that this time of the year can be horrible for those facing lost jobs, foreclosure and the light in their children's eyes as they talk about the holidays. In fact, it can be a downright anxious and depressing time, filled with dread by the expectations of those around us. The hottest toys and the coolest gadgets are great but they also cost an arm and a leg. With job layoffs and little cash on hand, the pressure to provide even a passable holiday season to kids is tough for many. Families are choosing between heat and light, getting their groceries at food pantries and hearts are broken when small children talk with excitement about what Santa might bring. You know that cool old guy - $anta? And for others without anyone to turn to– the loneliness of seeing others get together with their families and friends can be torturous.
So in an effort not to be too much of a downer at such a generally happy time, let’s look at some of the ways we can cope financially over this 6 week period.
Saving on gifts and family meals:
We can and must be realistic. Children (if we’re raisin’ ‘em right) should not have ridiculously high expectations for gifts. But every child deserves a package or two to wake up to on Christmas morning. Depending on each child’s preference, buy one larger gift or a few small ones. Stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army offer never-opened still-in-the-box toys that are excellent quality, for a quarter of the retail cost, or less.