Guest Contributor: Andrea Schmutz
USU Extension Assistant Professor
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” croons Andy Williams on the radio. When Christmas decorations started appearing while I was still debating on which Halloween candy to buy, instead of feeling frustrated that people were leapfrogging Halloween and Thanksgiving to get to Christmas, I felt my spirits lift. COVID could alter life in many ways, but it could not take away the positivity and joy that I feel during the Christmas season. However, one thing started to tug at my thoughts, threatening to dampen my spirits. With so much time to think about Christmas, would it be harder to stick to my holiday shopping budget? As I pondered my dilemma, I had a most bizarre thought: the words to a Christmas song started dancing in my head and I realized they had some great advice that would help me in my efforts to not overspend this season. I started looking at other Christmas songs and found that there were hidden budgeting messages in many of them.
Frosty the Snowman: Frosty’s “button nose and eyes made out of coal” are not exactly fancy accoutrements, nor was his second-hand silk hat. However, “there must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found, for when they placed it on his head, he began to dance around.” Let Frosty remind us that there is magic in being resourceful and keeping things simple - two great ways to stay within our holiday budget.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: I love that this song reminds us to “take a look in the five-and-ten”. A “five-and-ten” store was the precursor to today’s dollar stores. Don’t overlook some of the great deals you can find in discount stores or even thrift stores.
The Little Drummer Boy: If you take out all of the “pah rum pum pum pums” and listen to the words, the drummer boy says, “I am a poor boy too. I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give our King. Shall I play for you? ...I played my drum for Him, I played my best for Him. Then He smiled at me. Me and my drum.” Let’s be like the drummer boy and remember that it’s not how much money we spend or how expensive the gifts are, what really matters is that we give from our heart. We don’t need to go into debt to show our loved ones how much we care. We can give our talents, our time or our attention - gifts that are truly priceless!
White Christmas: Bing Crosby sings, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write.” When was the last time you actually wrote a card or heartfelt letter to someone in your life? This year, instead of spending too much money on dust collectors or gadgets for some of the people on your list (think grandparents or parents), write about a memory with the person or a note thanking them for their positive influence. A handwritten note is a gift that never goes out of style.
Christmas is Coming (the goose is getting fat): This may not be at the top of your Christmas carol list, but I love the line “please put a penny in the old man’s hat,” It reminds me to be charitable; when I am charitable, I am happy. And when I am happy, I am able to stick to my budget better because I don’t get caught up in emotional spending.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town: “He’s making a list and checking it twice.” We’d do well to follow Santa’s example and make a list of the gifts we plan to purchase and then check it twice and stick to it. It’s much easier to stick to a budget if we have a plan. Maybe that’s how Santa can afford to give out so many presents each year - he sticks to his list that he has checked twice!
Whether it’s Frosty, Santa, or the Little Drummer Boy, find budgeting and spending reminders that work for you. Sticking to your holiday spending plan will truly help you “have yourself a merry little Christmas and let your heart be light”. Happy Holidays!
Parting thought: "Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words." - Harlan Miller
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