As Christmas sneaks up on us, good intentions of saving money melt like snowflakes, and this “merry” time of year quickly escalates into a financial blow out. Then January rolls around and a nasty reality check arrives to hundreds of thousands of homes around the country in the form of a credit card bill.
In case you glossed over last week news, Canadians’ average consumer debt load is now up to $22,081 – that’s up 3.6% since last year! Eep! Canadians owe more than $1.7 trillion in total consumer debt – that’s not including mortgages. (If that doesn’t make you panic, read this post on why debt is a flaming emergency.)
Instead of starting off the New Year with a scary credit card statement, we want to share a secret that will save you money and make you feel happier this Christmas season: Mindfulness.
What the heck is mindfulness and how is it going to save me money?
Mindfulness is when you focus your attention to the present moment and bring awareness to your thoughts, feelings and environment in a non-judgmental way.
The Christmas season is usually the complete opposite of mindfulness: running around crammed, chaotic malls with hundreds of brightly coloured ads, signs and store announcements screaming “SALE, SALE, SALE”. You’re stressed, running out of time, and have trouble thinking clearly. Getting caught up in the Christmas madness is when we lose sight of what’s really important and start swiping our credit cards like we’re stocking up for the apocalypse.
When we’re mindful however, we’re forced to slow right down and clear our minds. It helps us realize that Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, not about buying the most expensive presents. Mindfulness helps us find joy in simple things and moments, increasing our contentedness with what we have and lessening our desire to want more.
If you want do things differently and keep your spending under control this year, here are 6 ways to practice mindfulness at Christmas:
1. Presence Over Presents
Have a family meeting or call relatives and let them know your plan for Christmas this year. Explain that their presence is more important than anything to you, and instead of exchanging Christmas gifts this year, you’d much rather spend Christmas enjoying their company. People hold a lot of shame around money, so this might be a challenging conversation. But what if other relatives have been feeling the same way, but were too afraid to speak up? They may actually be relieved to hear your suggestion.
2. Give Your Time
Instead of buying gifts for family members that have everything – gift your time. Older parents and relatives in particular tend to have all the material possessions they need, but struggle with things like gardening, cooking, or cleaning for example. Offering to spend a whole day or weekend with them deepens your relationship and is far more useful than another vase or pair of woolly socks.
3. Homemade Gifts
Bake or make! Cakes, cookies, or savoury dishes like lasagna or quiches are warmly received gifts, especially this time of year. They cost a fraction of their store-bought versions and feel far more satisfying to give and receive. Spend a mindful Saturday baking or making homemade gifts such as candles, soap, body butters, or knitted scarves. Here are 101 ideas for things to make or bake at Christmas.
4. Send Christmas Cards
Receiving a handwritten card is such a cool treat! And writing them is a fantastic way to be mindful. Spend an unhurried afternoon writing cards–putting plenty of time and thought into meaningful messages for each person.
Volunteering at Christmas especially is a soul-nourishing exercise. Look up your local charity, church or community centre and see how you can offer your time. Get your kids involved and show them a more meaningful way to mark Christmas.
Start your meditation practice now if you haven’t already. Practice being present. When things start feeling panicky or chaotic during Christmas, turn to your breathing exercises to help you focus, clear your mind and reset. Download a free meditation podcast or app to listen to wherever you are (The Daily Meditation Podcast is a brilliant free podcast with 900+ meditations).
If you do need to spend a little money this Christmas, it’s not too late to implement some of these tips to save or make money over the holidays.
How do you keep your spending under control at Christmas? Let us know in the comments!