Budget Breakers It’s that time of year again when you ask yourself—why do I break the holiday budget every year? Dr. Fiore explains why love matters more than money. BY DR. NEIL FIORE
Sure every holiday season starts off with a rigid budget, but you always go over.
Every year my husband and I put together a budget for holiday spending, but inevitably I ignore it and spend beyond our agreement. Why do I always break our holiday budget agreement?
You’re in the mall and you see the crowded toy store with adults frantically shopping for gifts, and all of a sudden you’re following suit. Forget about budgets, bills or astronomical credit card rates, it’s the holidays for Pete’s sake. Not wanting to be practical, budget-minded, or mature wouldn’t be you and plus… you’re shopping!
It’s common for most to spend and not think of bills you'll have to pay later. Actually, it's the kid in you who spends your money—sometimes to make up for what he or she didn't get years ago. But it’s you who'll wind up paying the bills. After all, you're the one who lives in the real world of choices, consequences and responsibilities.
You want to make your family this ideal whatever you’ve always wanted… like the movies––where everyone's happy, healthy and generous toward each other. So you search for the perfect gifts that you hope will delight your child or spouse. You want to be a Santa Claus, not a Scrooge or Grinch, and you wind up overspending and breaking the budget in the unrealistic hope that you can make others happy with material things.
In grammar school I had this friend named Tommy whose parents gave him the latest and most expensive toys. In our family, my brother, sister, and I learned not to ask for too much because it would only make our mom and dad feel guilty for not being able to afford it. We learned to enjoy simple things and to enjoy making presents for each other. The funny thing is Tommy preferred to come to our house for Christmas rather than playing alone with his expensive gifts. He had learned to ask his parents for the presents they could give him, because he seemed to know they couldn't give him the love and attention he really needed. Sometimes getting what you really need deep inside removes the wanting for something outside.
When a child continually cries, "But I want that." he or she is usually trying to communicate, "If you really loved me you'd give me what I want." Overdoing the material gifts can be a sign that, like Tommy's parents, you're not giving someone what they really want from you—attention, time, and (of course) love.
Instead of breaking the budget this holiday season, try giving the people in your life a little more time, attention and respect. Give them the gift of feeling heard, validated and supported by you. This is what we all need and want. Give them something that will "stick to their ribs" rather than an expensive toy that will be broken and forgotten within a few days.
Neil Fiore, PhD is a psychologist, coach, speaker, and author of Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage (McGraw-Hill, 2006). Go to www.neilfiore.com for "Free Tips and Articles," CDs, and Neil's motivational newsletter.