Sleep In and Avoid The January Credit Card Hangover

What if you slept in this holiday season and saved $1000s?

If you saw the commercial you know where this is going. The first time I saw this commercial I thought it was perfect. It starts out with 2 neighbors in their driveways talking about Black Friday.

One guy is pulling out huge piles of boxes from his trunk and stands up revealing this shining black eye. His surprised young neighbor says “Phil, what happened to you?” Phil says “Oh, Black Friday, but I saved $100s. How did you do?” 

The young neighbor says “Oh, I slept in and saved $1000s.” 

Now from a Financial Counselor’s perspective I thought that alone was the perfect consumer commercial – just brilliant!

But then the commercial continues and you see the young man slowly turn to his driveway looking at the brand new Buick in his driveway – insinuating he slept in, took his time and saved $1000s by, of course, spending $1000s. 

So much for the brilliant conscious consumer commercial.

Let’s think about this idea of sleeping in, not shopping so much, having a relaxing holiday season and saving $1000s.

Consider the following 4 tips for enjoying this season more fully and avoiding the traditional “January Credit Card Hangover.”

  1. Cut back on the shopping frenzy

Think about it. With the enormous number of shelves and aisles or web pages piled FULL of endless enticing “STUFF”, things you had no idea existed how can you resist. And then at those seductive prices (then add the promo code for even more insane prices!), your brain just goes into brain candy heaven. “OMG what an amazing (cute, adorable, cheap, practical, perfect – you fill it in) item…and at such an awesome price!”  “I can’t pass this up!  I need this! I WANT this! GIMME GIMME NOW!!” And off you go.

Say good bye to your rational brain. Say hello to your depleting checking account balance or your increasing credit card balance and perhaps a credit card hangover to deal with.

Rather than even putting yourself through this emotional and financial roller coaster, consider cutting back dramatically on those shopping sprees. Try staying out of the stores and off the shopping sites.  

  1. Replace the shopping with a different, yet satisfying activity

Even though we like to think that we can conjure up will power and have complete control over our emotions and actions, enough studies show this isn’t the case.  How many smokers do you know who successfully will-powered their way to stopping cold turkey? 

Make it easier on yourself. Think of other activities that can be very satisfying and meaningful to you during this holiday season. Having coffee with your friends, playing more games with the kids, spending time on snap chat with distant friends and relatives.  

Do you like to host gatherings – like a rousing game night, movie night, or relaxing pot luck? Or perhaps this is the year and season you and your family get involved with volunteering and serving at a soup kitchen or giving gifts to needy families.

Maybe those Santa suits and beards can be a refreshing change from your daily work routine.

  1. Explore new gift giving traditions

If your time and budget is already strained, have the family talk. Discuss new ideas, budget limits and expectations.

Remember “money can’t buy us love and neither can expensive gifts”, which was so aptly put in Donna Skeels Cygan’s (CFP & MBA) recent article on helping you stick to a holiday budget.

This may be the year to start that gift exchange with reasonable dollar limits.  No more buying individual gifts for all those family members and network of friends.   

Find your creative gene with handmade gifts. “Handmade” could easily include those clever online tools for creating unique toys, clothing, and a variety of household or personal items.

Of course if you are a great cook or baker, or have a green thumb, or passionate hobby, those unique gift ideas can be endless.

Numerous sites have articles on clever and thoughtful personal gifts to make.

One simple and thoughtful idea I read about was simply finding a beautiful jar. Cut different colored paper into small, note-sized pieces. Write a single memory you have had with that particular special person on each sheet and place it in the jar until the jar is full and colorful.  There are lots of ways to creatively modify this idea. Add a decorative ribbon or other crafty design and you have a very thoughtful jar of memories to give, which will be a special memory in itself.

  1. Manage your expectations

Are you tired of those years of stressful holidays?  Who is actually creating all the stress and expectations?  Do you really need to have the Martha Steward settings with the decorations, tree, outdoor decorations, table settings, or gift wrap? 

Does your house really need to be in a pristine state for the guests, only to have them mess up all the floors and counters and toilets again?  

How about a total shared pot luck gathering instead of the time consuming, attention-getting gourmet meal?

So what if your family member, friend or “the Jones” always seem to have the perfect everything? 

As my friend used to always say when someone was stressing over some imperfection or unfinished project, “WHO CARES?”  Try to put the whole situation in perspective and manage those oversized expectations.

Remember the bigger picture. In the overall scheme of life, your peace of mind, happiness, and finally being fully present with those around you (children, family, and friends) is what truly matters during this holiday season.  

May this be a stress free holiday with emotional and financial peace of mind as your bonus for the year.