The holiday season brings a myriad of emotions with it. Aside from the questions we ask this holiday season about the safety of traditional holiday gatherings, events and travel, some of the normal and difficult realities surrounding this time of year include:
- Exhaustion from over-committing. The list is never-ending about what I need to do, buy, attend, etc.
- Guilt about not having enough money to buy more gifts, take a fun trip or have a more elaborate dinner. You pray your kids don’t see your social media page where the other kids in their class are getting WAY more stuff under their tree.
- Shame that you aren’t enough. That you don’t make enough money. That you are a bad person for eating so many cookies. That you overspent….again….on gift giving. That you never get it right, as a parent, spouse, or in-law.
Take a deep breath with me. As you exhale, let go of all the garbage that is weighing you down, the bricks we don’t have to carry forward with us. It’s time to let go of all the reasons we end up not enjoying this time of year and lighten our load as we head into 2021.
All of us have a backpack we carry with us. Take off the backpack and place it on the ground. Open it up and find the very heavy bricks labeled SHAME, GUILT and OVERCOMMITING. Take them out, put them aside, zip up your bag and walk forward. Feel lighter?
As a financial coach, I want to focus on these three bricks that affect your money journey and how you, or you and your spouse or partner, can set boundaries this year so you don’t fall into the normal routine of over-committing financial shame and guilt.
Boundaries for Yourself
Start with your mindset around money. What are your beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes around the holidays and your financial reality? What is your expectation of how you will budget for the holidays and what is your vision and priorities about where those dollars are going to go? Too often instead of asking ourselves these questions, we create our holiday budget (or perhaps our entire financial plan) around what others believe or think we should do. Or maybe we don’t plan or budget at all, and then wonder where all our money went. Do we make money decisions based on our family or what the family at church does, or do we decide what’s right for us and our family based on our financial priorities?
Boundaries for Couples
In relationships, each person should have their own time to reflect on these boundaries and then come together to share and communicate what those boundaries look like for your team. As a couple, what are YOUR visions, expectations, and goals for the holiday season AND your budget? What holiday budget can you commit to? What do you choose to say NO to so you can say YES to what’s really important? How will you forge together and create the necessary boundaries for others in your life that may have a different vision or expectation? This can include young children, adult children, extended family, friends, colleagues and anyone that is trying to have a say on the vision the two of YOU have created. This is very personal and will look different based on your unique vision and priorities.
This is where I recommend doing a budget together (or one on your own if you are single). A budget is your spending and saving plan. It puts you in the driver seat of your finances. YOU decide where your money goes, and once those numbers are there, you get to decide what’s important and what is not bringing you closer to your goals.
Boundaries for Families
Great, now I am good, and if I’m in a relationship we are good… but what about our families???
Is it better for you to be scared to speak up and then grin and bear it? Would you rather get through the holidays with a fake sense of “peace” when all you know is that inside you are building resentment and could explode any minute? That may be slightly exaggerated but stop and think about how you feel when you live outside of your goals and visions… when you say yes to something you REALLY want to say no to? I can see the fake smiles now as you greet the in laws.
Picture something different. What if you, or you and your spouse or partner, had an honest, real and heartfelt conversation with extended family to express your needs. It could look something like this:
“I/We are looking at our budget and realizing we need to re-allocate some of our spending right now. We have a vision for our financial future, and we are experiencing stress and heartache because right now, we are out of balance. We want to set our priorities straight so we can… (pay off debt, build our emergency, stop living paycheck to paycheck, etc). We love you and hope you understand that this year we have to trim down… (the gift budget, travel, etc.).”
Setting these boundaries helps reduce shame and guilt surrounding finances. When we make decisions that align with our priorities, and we OWN those decisions, our load gets lighter. We lose the shame that we aren’t ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ because we have decided to live OUR life, not theirs. We reduce guilt about not being able to do things because we have made a plan (our budget) and we have decided that we will say no to things that don’t matter so we can say yes to what does, as well as a big YES to the future we are building.
You get to decide what you want your financial journey to look like. Starting 2021 without holiday debt sounds like a good way to kick off the new year.
For more information on financial coaching, connect with Regina Novak with RCM Financial Coaching at [email protected].