No shame in cutting back this year
The stereo set: a hypothetical family narrative from earlier decades
He must have had his eye on it for months; he talked about getting one incessantly. How he could use it to play in his room. How it would help him study. How he could carry it around with him, go over to friends’ houses to share music. How some of his friends were talking about getting it, too.
The model he wanted was expensive.
They knew they could not afford it, not this year.
Family finances were really tight; they were struggling just to pay monthly bills.
His job was ever-evolving; future employment was very uncertain. She only worked part-time.
Elderly father’s health was fading. Intermittent calls from social services for help were becoming more frequent, debilitating for him and them as they juggled increased responsibly for the elder’s welfare
College costs were on the horizon.
Christmas, a holiday they could not really afford, was almost at the door.
It has already been another tough year for everyone after the isolating years of Covid’s mental, physical, social, and financially serious impacts, particularly for those having lost friends and loved ones.
And now, the unrelenting, accelerating inflation challenges in the midst of Christmas giving and celebrations.
Many will celebrate minimally, rather than all out as in the past, for many reasons.
Probably the toughest part of the holiday season is meeting expectations:
Especially for the children, the family, the relatives, the friends, co-workers, and community.
Children know what they want; they’ve been targeted relentlessly by social media advertising to “have what their friends have”.
Young children, particularly, do not understand the concept of cash availability. As my young grandson solemnly assured me years ago, “my mum gets money out of the machine and then she buys me toys that I like”.
Unfortunately, the subliminal pressure that we put on ourselves to keep up with the Jones, spend more than we can afford, provide items – not always appreciating assets – that have been touted as must-haves, can be overwhelming, a source of personal shame that we cannot give all that is desired.
Sometimes, we succumb anyway, then are pretty depressed facing the prospect of January credit card bills.
Families with children have my very real sympathy.
I’ve been there, tried to cope with diminished expectations, unsuccessfully, most of the time. It is not until children reach a mature perception of what something costs, what takes place is not all about them, that expectations and actual reality are understood. That giving is better than getting – for the soul.
And the boy wanting the stereo set?
The family scraped together enough to buy it. January came, he returned to school. First day home: “Guess what my friend got for Christmas? An entire stereo wall unit 10ft across and 8ft high!”
Parents: “We wish we could have given you that, too. You must feel so envious!”
He said that he was jealous – and then added: “But I’m not really, because his parents are getting a divorce and the father has already moved out.”
Food for thought
You are doing your best – never be ashamed.
We make assumptions about other people’s lives. Stop judging yourself, comparing your life to others.
Things are never what they seem – ever! As reflected in the examples above and below!
One of the most successful families I ever encountered – when the shiny surface was finally peeled back – was certainly illuminating, to use a polite word.
Just about everything you thought they “owned”, they didn’t.
Stunning supercharged vehicles, including a Ferrari and a customised truck for one teenager, were all leased.
Fabulous exotic island trips, all charged. The business was operating on ever-increasing lines of credit, little profit.
Retirement savings were minuscule.
They were on the brink of filing personal bankruptcy, meaning that their creditors and ordinary people would be financially impacted – while they walked away, free of all that debt.
Tell the truth – simply and honestly
“We’re cutting back this year.” There is no shame. Do not be embarrassed about your personal circumstances.
The Covid pandemic and inflation has become a perfect alignment of emotional and financial disruption to almost everyone, pushing our human resilience to unprecedented levels.
Be proud that you and your family have weathered this lifetime challenge in good order and are moving forward to better days.
You get to start over next year. There is always hope for the future. Make next year, your successful year.
About celebrating this year
Keep it simple. Focus on what mattered most to you while enduring the Covid pandemic.
Most of all, renew the uniqueness of you, because what gave you the emotional fortitude to cope with these last few years is your greatest attribute.
Use that fortitude to move forward successfully with your life.
Better days are on the horizon, because you will manage any changes, any challenges, the way forward is upward.
After the holidays
• Focus on you
• Plan for better days to come
• Clean out all surplus stuff, because none of it really mattered, did it, after what you’ve all been through?
• Sell it, donate it, repurpose or recycle it
• Get your simple budget put together
Line up your continuing education – you will need this more than ever as artificial intelligence comes closer to reality. Expect more from me on CHATGTB in 2023.
And consider some low-cost options for the holidays. Last year’s Moneywise Christmas message still holds interest, use these suggestions linked below to develop your own fun.
Merry Christmas, everyone and blessings to all of you this Christmas Eve.
• Martha Harris Myron is a native Bermuda islander with US connections. Author of Bermuda’s First Financial Literacy Primer – the Dawn of New Beginnings – available at the Bermuda Book Store, 3 Queen Street, a Google News contributor, and the Bermuda – Bermy Island Finance Blog. Contact: email@example.com