Saturday, December 1, 2018

Four Holiday Guilt Trips and How to Avoid Them

 The holidays... a time for family, fun, festivities,  and guilt.  

What?!  Guilt!  Yep!  Sometimes Yuletide brings with it a hefty dose of guilt.  This is not just true for those of us who live Under the Median.  Drama tends to rise up, rear its ugly head, and strike during busy, stressful times, no matter what your income.    

Here are four Holiday"guilt trips" and how to deal with them.  

#1 - We must be "all things to all people".


  I am a member of several financial groups on Facebook.  People pour their hearts out all the time about family and friends who arrange gatherings at expensive restaurants, book reservations for family vacations to Disney, or plan destination weddings.  Then, they expect everyone else to not only attend these functions, but to also often spend money that they don't have to do so!  Group members are distraught and emotionally devastated that are expected to fulfill certain social and family obligations and fit into a predetermined role. They feel trapped and it breaks my heart!

That same mindset continues through the holidays.  Here are some common scenarios.

  • Your family expects you to host the Christmas dinner every year. 
  • You are "required" to spend every single Christmas with your in-laws. 
  • You need to be a "team player" and commit a certain amount of money to gifts for the bosses. 
  • Your children "must" attend and help fund expensive parties for their sports team, cheerleading squad, or other extra-curricular activity. 

Do NOT give money that you can't afford to impress or appease other people.  It's just not worth it.! 

You can't do it all - physically, financially, or emotionally.  So, don't try.  Be up front and honest with every single person who comes to you with a request or an expectation.  Remember, "no" is a complete sentence.  You don't actually owe them a lengthy explanation.  Answer sincerely and with a smile.  If they get upset, then that is their problem, not yours. 
  • It's okay to say, "I know that I've generally hosted the family dinner, but I am not going to be able to do it this year." 
  • Maybe your husband needs to tell his mother, "We will be going to Susan's parents' home this year for Christmas, but we would love to plan a special evening with you either before or after that day to exchange gifts." 
  • Look your co-worker in the eye and confidently say, "I am working really hard at getting my finances under control.  So, $40 is just too much for me at this time.  But, I'd be happy to chip in $20 toward that gift."  
  •  Tell the cheerleading sponsor that you are so excited by the confidence you see being built in your daughter through being a part of the team, but the $30 for the party and the additional $30 toward the coach's gift are just not in your budget.  If you feel it would be appreciated, then, by all means, offer to make some baked goods for the party or even help set up and tear down. 

#2 - We must spend a certain amount of money on gifts. 


When was the last time you opened a gift and said, "Wow!  This is great!  How much did it set you back?"  I would venture to say that never have such crass words come from your lips.  So, it is highly unlikely that any friend or loved one will utter them either.  If they do, then you are probably dealing with a narcissist and that is a whole different ball of wax.

Set your budget and pay with cash.

Ask yourself:  "Are people, who are ungrateful enough to question the monetary value of a gift, paying my bills?"  I mean that in the nicest way possible (even though it reads a little snarky.) The answer is:  Of course they are not!  No one else walks in your financial shoes.  No one else knows how much debt you have, how much money you make, or how you choose to spend it.  Well, unless you are me and you write a blog on finances.

If you are in the process of taking control of a runaway financial train, hold your head up!  You are no longer sitting back and allowing your history of monetary mistakes to rule your future.  You are taking charge, making changes, becoming a svelte super saver!  That's something to be proud about!  Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise!

For a list of specific steps and ideas, see my post on Paying Cash for Christmas.  

#3 - We must give to every charity who asks us for money.  

My husband and I just had a conversation a few days ago in which we agreed on a predetermined strategy for charities this Christmas season.  We really like and appreciate the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.  I have rung bells before, for a relatively short period of time, and it is no piece of cake.  You get that bell into a pattern and try to make eye contact with passerbys, in the hope that they will drop a few coins into the red kettle.

Here's what we do:

So, we set aside a certain amount to give to the Bell Ringers.  We really don't like to drop it all in at once.  We really like to bless each one that we can.  So, we plan to get our Salvation Army cash in one dollar bills.  We will carry it with us in a special place in our wallet and then give it to as many of the bell ringers as we can throughout the Christmas season, until it is all depleted.  If our kids are with us, we let them slip the money through the slot.  Even better!

I understand that the Yuletide season is when most charities make the bulk load of their yearly budget.  People are in a "giving mood".  I am, too!  But, we set our budget, pick our charities, and gently tell the rest that our charitable giving fund is depleted for the year.   If you do this, it will set you free from any and all unnecessary guilt!

  #4 - We must attend every gathering. 

Says who?!  No, you don't!  Can you tell me if specific people were at your holiday work gathering last year?  Unless you are employed by a very small company, then probably not.  In general, people don't really remember whether you were there, or, if they do, they assume that you were busy.  It's the holidays, after all, and calendars and commitments fill up fast.

If your holiday calendar is giving you hives, then cut some items off of it!  I won't tell anyone!  We need to create margin every month of the year, but it is especially important during the holidays.  I can't live with an overly full calendar.  Look at December and deliberately plan some evenings for sitting on your sofa and sipping hot cocoa while reading a book.  You get extra points if you are doing it while the room is illuminated by the light of the Christmas tree.

This holiday season commit to:

  • Be up front.
  • Be honest.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Set boundaries. 
  • Create margin 

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Do all to the glory of God, 



  1. Very good post, Hope. I had to deal with the destination wedding for my neice this past year and decided the money we saved to finish our kitchen was not going to be redirected to travel expenses for the wedding. I felt like I was criticized from family for not going but my kitchen was more important to our family than 5 days in Mexico.

    1. Good for you for sticking to your budget. Family is incredibly important. So, sending a gift and expressing how sorry you are to not be able to attend is great. But, if a couple plans a destination wedding, then surely they must understand that there will be many who will be unable to attend. There have been many family and friend events that we have had to bow out of over the years, but it helps if you maybe even call and give them your best wishes and then send a gift for their special day.