Staying within your means this Christmas

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By Leslie Moore

While I still have a month left to get my Christmas shopping done, I am already stressed out. I haven’t checked a single name off my list yet, and there are several on there this year. Of course, at the top of my list is my niece.

This will be her first Christmas, and though I doubt she will remember it, I am determined to find her the perfect present. Or I should clarify, presents.

In our quest to find an appropriate gift for everyone on our list, it can be very easy to go over our budgets. And when we’re paying with plastic, as most of us do, it can be even easier to forget just how much money we’ve spent. Until our December bank and credit card statements come in.

Christmas music, all the pretty lights and the extra time we get to spend with our families make it seem impossible for anyone to get depressed during the holiday season. But according to Psychology Today, the

Christmas season is the likeliest time of the year to experience depression.

But why?

There are actually many reasons, from having to celebrate Christmas for the first time after the passing of a loved one, to anger over the over-commercialization of Christmas. And of course, anxiety concerning money.

In the last few years, our economy has taken a downturn and while, according to the national news, things are finally starting to get a little better, we are definitely still experiencing the effects of the recession in Taylor County.

Many people who were laid off when the recession first hit a few years ago still have not been able to find steady employment, and the layoffs are likely not over. Those lucky enough to keep their jobs may have had their hours or wages cut or said farewell to their holiday bonuses.

As a result, many families simply cannot afford to buy all the things for their loved ones and friends they would like. But oftentimes, we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and can’t resist going ahead and buying that newly-released tablet or those $300 boots, even when we know we can’t afford them.

Unfortunately, spending money we don’t have seldom ends well, and worry about paying off the debt we’ve accrued during the holiday season can lead to anxiety and depression.

I think this can be solved by simply changing our expectations a little, both for ourselves and others. Maybe you can’t afford to buy your teenager a new laptop right now, but you have enough to get him that ruggedly cool jacket you know he’s been eyeing. Or maybe your husband can’t afford to buy you that sparkly diamond necklace you made sure he saw you admiring in the store window. Why not help him out by telling him you could really use a new pair of pajamas this year? It doesn’t mean he can’t eventually get you the necklace, just not right now.

As we need to get back to planning our lists, and checking them twice, I won’t keep you any longer except to ask that if you happen to catch me in the baby aisle with an armload of toys, please pray that I will learn my lesson next year.