Survive and Thrive the Holidays: Saving Money Without Sacrifice

Now that you’ve set your intentions and planned some spontaneity , it’s time to get even more serious with ensuring your spending aligns with your intentions. Conscious spending is the key at all times of the year but no time can be more dicey than the holidays. With emotions running high, retailers on full attack, and the extra desire for convenience during the hustle and bustle of the season, the temptations and opportunities to blow it are many.

The biggest pitfall people fall into has little to do with money itself at all. Our emotions fuel all our spending. Once we’ve got our basic needs met, the rest is all about emotions and perceptions. Where we get hung up is when we don’t tend to our own emotional housekeeping. Instead, we attempt to spend our way to fulfillment. It just isn’t possible, not at the holidays, not ever. We feel that if we don’t buy this or that or give a gift (the “right” gift”, a “good enough” gift, etc.) to people that somehow we’ve failed. Instead of the holidays being a peaceful time of connection it becomes a stressful time focused upon a bunch of external circumstances and spending while our true desires fall by the wayside.

Cutting back on spending often feels like a sacrifice. Much for the same reasons diets don’t work – because it is all about deprivation – if you feel like your approach to money is nothing but sacrifice you’ll fall into the same yo-yo trap. What I can say with certainty is that if you align your spending with your intentions, values, and means, that feeling of sacrifice melts away and is replaced with a feeling of personal power. The power to make choices that honor you.

I get the fact that there is stuff out there that we want and would enjoy. I know I have a list! There’s nothing wrong with buying it, enjoying it, and wanting it. However, when this desire for stuff and our spending is out of whack with our values and financial means that’s where the holiday overspending and buyer’s remorse takes hold. With the burn of the crash of the financial and housing markets fresh on our skin, let us not forget where buying more than you can truly afford will lead you.

No one tells it like it is quite the way Suze Orman does. In her article on Yahoo Money Matters “Five Ways to Avoid Holiday Overspending” she calls the holidays season the danger season.

I’m talking about the five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when 20 percent of our country’s annual retail spending occurs. Jamming one-fifth of our spending into a frenzied window of shopping time can lead to some ugly financial results: A whole lot of bills we have no way of paying off come January.

While Suze can often seem a little dramatic, she’s got the numbers to back it up. Think about it – Since Black Friday all we’ve heard about are the retailers’ tales of woe. Why do you think that is? Because they count on every one of us overspending at the holiday to make money. Each year we need to spend more and more for them to remain profitable. So the very behavior that has taken us to the cleaners over the past few months is the very behavior retailers rely on for their business model. Now there’s conundrum that Obama’s team can start sorting through right now. In business they call that an unsustainable business model. Remember the dot com boom and bust?

The good news is that perhaps all of this drama and financial pain has helped many heed its wake up call. The National Retail Federation reports:

In order to stick to a budget this holiday season, consumers continue to set aside plastic. According to the survey, two-thirds of shoppers (66.2%) have primarily used cash, debit cards, or checks to pay for holiday purchases, up from 64.5 percent last year.

All these numbers and strategies are great. What I know as a coach, however is that our relationship with money and spending has a lot less to do with budgets and numbers than with our relationship with ourselves. If you’re not treating yourself well, clear on who you are and what you really want, and honest with yourself, no amount of financial strategies are going to help you. You will continue to overspend and self-sabotage even if you were “good” and following a plan for a period of time. Unless you do the inner work required to shift your relationships (starting with the one you have with yourself) everything is just a temporary bandaid fix.

Through all of Suze’s tough talk she has from day one maintained the mantra: people first, then money. In her holiday spending article she sums it up nicely in her fifth tip:

You can’t buy friends or love.

An important relationship is not defined by what you spend on a holiday gift. So often, people tell me they feel pressure to shower their friends and family with holiday gifts even though they can’t really afford it.

Slow down and really think through where the pressure is coming from. It’s often self-inflicted, so keep in mind that the best gift you can ever give to yourself is one of financial honesty. If you want to make a dent in your debt load this year rather than add to it, just be honest about your situation. No one is going to love you less or devalue a treasured friendship just because you’re not exchanging expensive gifts this year.

And I’d add to that — you can’t buy your own self-love either. So this holiday – give yourself the gift of honesty and personal power. Align your spending with your intentions and be honest with your financial situation. You truly can save money without feeling pinched or deprived. Quite the opposite in fact — when you feel solid in your own self, you feel rich beyond words – and you can’t get THAT on sale at the mall.

Photo Credit: Stock.xchng

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