We’ve all just gone through the most intense shopping spree of the year. Now is the time to make notes about what we have done and plan for next year. That’s right. It’s no surprise, you will face this all again next year. It’s almost like these last four weeks are part of our civic duty. If you don’t buy gifts for your family and friends, not only will they be disappointed but so will the merchants who count on this seasonal shopping to turn a profit for the year. Our government counts on the sales taxes from this annual shopping orgy, too. And think about the jobs it creates. We need to create jobs, don’t we?
Excuse me! I was getting into my “Humbug” mode. There is much more to the season than what might seem to be our civic duty, but it still involves some shopping.
You can make next year’s shopping frenzy a bit more manageable if you make some notes from what you did this year. So, why not give this technique a try?
Start by making a list of everyone who was on your gift list. Do it now before you forget what happened. Make a note of what you gave each person and how much it cost you. Include the shipping costs if you had to ship a package to someone. Compare this list to the credit card statements and bank statements to make sure you remembered everything.
Make another list of everyone on your greeting card list (even if you only sent e-mail greetings). Make a note of who sent you a card. You might want to make sure you send them a card next year. Check the addresses to make sure you have the most recent address (street addresses and e-mail addresses).
Tally up all the costs for gifts, cards, entertainment, postage, and decorations. You want to allow this in your budget for next season.
With the information you have just collected, you will be better prepared to understand your credit card statement when it arrives. Suddenly that gift for Aunt Sarah is seen as part of a larger seasonal project. Remember when you bought that gift? You thought of what Aunt Sarah meant to you and figured she was worth at least what you spent on her gift. But now, the “larger seasonal project” is threatening your bank account. With this list you will better understand why you have such a large credit card bill to pay.
After you examine your credit card statements and realize how much debt you have added with your seasonal spending, write yourself a letter explaining what you want to do differently next year, and why. Remind yourself how you felt about the joy you had shopping for gifts for your family and friends, and how you felt about the gifts you received from others. Remember to include how you feel about paying the bill.
Summarizing your holiday experience in this way is not just a chore to take up your time. Next year, you will have a useful roadmap to get you through the process with more purpose. The list of names for cards will save you time and help get you organized. The list of gifts will give you a moment to think about each person and how things might have changed in their lives (kids grow up). When you read the list next season, you will recall what you got each person this year, feel more connected to them, and get a head start on ideas for gifts.
Next year, when you pull out these lists (and the letter to yourself) you want to compare the money you have available and the money you expect to pay for everything. If you don’t have enough money saved to pay for your seasonal shopping you should look for ways to cut back on the spending. The letter you write to yourself might explain how the true value of the gifts isn’t in the “stuff” you gave, but rather the thought you expressed to the person you were giving to. Using that information you might find a way to give meaning while not emptying your wallet.
During the past month, merchants have paid good money to advertising agencies and the media to get your attention. At times their messages might have overwhelmed you. The message to “Buy! Buy! Buy!” is delivered repeatedly in the midst of glitter, music, and so much nostalgia for times gone by. The lists from this year will help you focus on what you want to accomplish in the midst of all that advertising next year. And that letter to yourself will serve as a constant reminder of how clearly you saw things after the bills came due. Next Season you will be shopping with purpose. Maybe you will save time and money. And you might find Peace, Joy, and Good Will along the way. That’s my wish for you next year!
James W. Stone, has been involved in new product development and marketing for most of his working career. Jim has a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and an MBA. His current interests focus on the psychology and sociology that influence our daily decisions when we spend money.
Much of this is covered in his book “Spend Joyfully!” http://www.spendjoyfully.com