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How Much Is That Gift Costing You?

Photo Credit: Annie Spratt

We understand that money can be a problem in relationships and is a leading cause of divorce. Financial stress is real, and the holidays can be one of the most anxiety provoking and stressful times of year when it comes to money. Our society and culture supports consumerism at an unhealthy level. We often feel the pressure of “keeping up with the Joneses” no matter what our annual salary is. If we make more, we tend to spend more. The advertising and marketing industry knows and preys on our weaknesses, especially at this time of year.

They are experts at this, and target even young children with tempting ads and pop-ups on our smart devices. It is easier than ever to spend with online and curbside shopping just a few clicks away.

gold-paper-wrapped gift in tree near Sanctuary Christian Counseling in Shippensburg PA

Often our desire to give can temporarily override our sense of judgment. Most of us acknowledge that money does not buy happiness, but in the short term we tend to think it does. Soon, we can find ourselves spending money as an escape from confronting uncomfortable or deeper issues going on in our lives. As we head to the checkout register to purchase the next “in” thing, we often feel good in the moment but find that feeling fades by the time we drive home or most certainly by the time our next bank statement arrives.

The holidays can provide an additional strain to not disappoint. Perhaps you made more money last year and feel obligated to spend just as much or more this year. Or perhaps you are in a new relationship in your life that adds additional names to your Christmas list. Soon we can feel overwhelmed, and this often leads to feelings of guilt or shame when we realize we have spent more than we can afford.

So, how do we say “no” or opt out of feeling obligated to spend more than we know is healthy or wise for us personally? Addressing holiday spending isn’t easy and ideally should begin months before the holidays roll around. Here are some helpful ways to tackle holiday spending that hopefully will provided some healthy spending habits that can last all year long.

  • Create a holiday budget and hold yourself accountable to sticking to it. If you are married or in a relationship and the holiday expenses are shared, be open and honest about how to spend or give that won’t cause conflict or financial strain on your wallet and/or relationship. Try and understand your partners perspective. Sometimes these difficult conversations can save hundreds of dollars and can also save your relationship from unnecessary conflict.

  • Look into giving gifts of time or experiences that can be shared together versus material items.

  • Be honest with yourself and others about what you can afford. Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves when it comes gift giving. We need to be mindful to not overextend ourselves financially out of guilt or a false sense of obligation.

  • Before spending, ask yourself the following questions: What will you have to sacrifice or give up to own or give that item? Will it require working extra hours to pay it off? Is it worth it? Will it require spending more time or money to further take care of that item with maintenance? How will you feel after a week of owning or paying for this item? Or how about after a month or a year? How will this purchase affect your relationships? Do you feel shame about the amount of money you spent to purchase this item or feel the need to hide it from others?

If you find yourself struggling with the negative impacts of financial stress and it is disrupting your daily life and relationships, we are here to help. Contact us at or call 717-200-3158

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