I LOVE Christmas. The events, the decorations, and especially all the time that people make for visiting with friends and family. Lately though, I’ve been finding more and more that people (myself included) use this holiday as an excuse the same way a child would blame a rebellious kid with poor boundaries they met in detention class.

Indulging a little at Christmas is part of the fun, am I right? But using Christmas as the reason why I haven’t respected the goals and boundaries I’ve set for myself only leads to the inevitable New Year’s overcorrection. Before I know it, all the twinkling lights and eggnog has me convinced I need to be extravagantly generous with my shopping and then in January, my budget (and my pants) get way too tight.

Christmas gets blamed. A LOT. It’s become the catalyst for causing holiday financial hangovers and a ten-pound weight gain in two weeks. I can’t be the only one who has done this? Why else would weight loss and financial goals always top the resolution list?

family enjoying christmas without overspending

We are getting to the last week before Christmas, and I find that it is so easy to get swept up into the emotional experience that shopping for others can be. I head out to pick up a couple of things for dinner and before I know it, I’ve thrown down much more than I had planned on some stocking stuffers, a gift card, and a cute decoration that will seemingly make my Christmas cheer complete.

I want to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with these things. I think one of the most enjoyable things about Christmas is finding the perfect gift for people, but there are times when we just can’t afford to pull out all the stops because of goals we have for our money, and that’s ok. If you have healthy relationships, the gifts shouldn’t matter that much.

Going into this last week before Christmas, I wanted to share a few of the methods I’ve learnt for how I keep my emotional spending in check without killing the magic that Christmas brings.

Write a list

Before I leave the house, I write a list. A detailed list of EXACTLY what I’m going to buy. This way the cleverly placed items at checkouts and displays stay there. I do a lot of thinking about the gifts I’m going to buy, for who, and how much I can spend.

Set the expectations

Have a chat with family and friends that may be expecting gifts from you. If you are changing things up this year, tell them if you have goals that are preventing you from being as generous as you usually are. Again though, if this creates a rift in your relationship, that is a HUGE red flag and you need to evaluate your relationship if someone is holding affection at ransom for a gift.

Write a note

Likely, the whole reason you are wanting to buy a gift for someone is because you want them to know how much they mean to you. Instead of putting a dollar amount on your feelings, sometimes a handwritten note in a card that actually expresses how you feel is much more meaningful than a gift with a stock hallmark message. I know, emotions are scary. But you can do it.

Walk away

If I come across a gift I wasn’t planning to buy that is perfect for someone, I walk away and leave it there until the next day. It’s a little inconvenient to go back, and I know the inner dialogue of the Christmas splurge all too well. It’s so easy to justify spending more than you had planned on a gift, but if it’s really that perfect I’ll go back for it tomorrow and make it work in my budget.

Get creative

Especially when giving gifts to kids who are a little too young to grasp the concept of worth in dollars and cents, giving an experience can be even more special to them than a gift. One Christmas, I ended up taking my nephew on a short horseback ride at our home. Years later, he still remembers that and neither of us remember what his actual Christmas gift was that year. You can even give a “gift certificate” for the event. For adults, it can be something like a night of babysitting or some particular skill you might have to contribute that you wouldn’t normally do for them.

Keeping my emotions in check

Christmas is so full of warm fuzzy moments it’s hard to remember that two weeks from now it will all be over for another year. It’s the memories of slowing down and making time to be with family and friends that really stick with me, and I think that’s true for most people.

Being generous is part of what the holidays are about, but I’ve learnt that there is way more to being generous than swiping plastic. This is what I try keep in mind whenever I get swept away by clever marketing that pulls at those heartstrings and makes me forget about where I’m at in life and how to get where I want to be.

where is your life heading? see your LIFEstage