The other week I read someone say "Act your Wage" in reference to Christmas shopping and the little cliche sort of stuck with me. I thought, "How clever!" and very fitting.
People, even those who aren't able to and SHOULDN'T, often buy into the commercialism of the holiday and go way overboard. It is almost as though the Christmas lights blind them to reality for the month. If you can't afford to pay the heating bill-then you should be having a VERY modest Christmas! It's that simple.
For several years now, I have noticed that from October to December ALL you ever hear are advertisements to BUY BUY BUY. It is interesting to listen to them too. Often you will here : "You DESERVE this" "After all-you deserve it!" "Why not get the thing you have ALWAYS dreamed of?" So then, if you decide NOT to buy that IPOD, then you must not DESERVE it? Businesses are REALLY good at convincing people they don't even know that there is none as worthy. They are really good at building up strangers. They even have psychoanalyzers working to figure out the best way to appeal to us. To sell us what we DON'T need by making it appear that we can't live without it. Hey, they are just doing their jobs. The object of the game is to sell-and they are doing a mighty fine job of it. The problem is that no one sees THROUGH it.
Have you noticed what happens AFTER December 25th? For months leading up to Christmas, we buy buy buy. Shop shop shop. Then-Christmas is SLAMBANG, done in a night and a day-and then the little radio jingles are NOT for stores anymore. Now they are debt consolidation ads. "We know you are in debt-and we are here to HELP!" "Are you feeling buried in debt? Call us!" Don't believe me? Just listen to your radio in January!
Am I the only one in the world that sees this?!? Apparently so. I just read an article that the Federal government is loaning banks $20 BILLION in order to help with the overwhelming credit and loan output. Now that is just SAD. Our country is not in a state of depression. Masses of people aren't buying houses this month. Our country isn't in a state of crisis. $20 billion dollars is being taken from our government to pay for the unnecessary, frivolous holiday spending of Americans. There is no sadder use of money than that.
Acting your wage is clever, catchy, and a good challenge. But-it's incomplete. It only applies to the people who need to count pennies. What about those people who have PLENTY of money? Or those who don't fit into either category? Acting THEIR wage would encourage them to frivolously spend on everything they DON'T need.
Not only must you act your wage, but you need to weigh your actions.
The thing we need most of all is wisdom and prudence when dealing with finances. If we don't have very much money, then we need to set our limits and STICK TO THEM. We need to prioritize the money that we DO have and stretch it as thin as it can get. If that means not buying a ton of Christmas presents, decorations, or Christmas hams-then so be it. The first Christmas was the most amazing Christmas ever, and it was spent in a barn.
If you are one of those people who happens to have large sums of money hidden away under your mattress, the kind of person that sneezes dollarbills, you are not exempt from making wise financial decisions. Sure, you can enjoy the finer things in life with a bit more excess, but in order to KEEP your fortune-you must handle it wisely.
I think both the rich and the poor need also fix their eyes to the future. Too often we Americans live in the "here and now"; we 'live for today'. Spontaneous spending is at an all-time high; if you see it, you get it. Whether you have the money or you don't doesn't seem to matter. Perhaps it is because of the false assurances those small pieces of plastic afford.
If you don't have the money, the obvious answer is that you shouldn't buy what you can't afford. But what if you DO have the money? Should you buy that cheeseburger? Or that set of BEAUTIFUL sheets on clearance? Or that toy that Johnny would just LOVE? Just because you happen to have $20.00 in your wallet (or a debit card, etc.) doesn't mean you should get it. In my case, we are desperately trying to save money (to no avail, mind you) for a house of our own someday. Matt and I are both sick to DEATH of renting. We want a home of our own, with land for our someday animals, gardens and our children. Would our money be better spent on that set of sheets, or in an account-accumulating for that great day that we CAN afford our dreams?! You know the answer to that, and so do I. But I still obviously fail, quite miserably, at times.
Anticipating the future is a wonderful way to meet your financial goals...but it is WONDERFUL for another reason.
We need to weigh our actions to see the effect they have on our children. We need to train them to be good stewards. We need to train them to be content. We need to train them that greed is sinful. How can we do that? We can avoid spoiling them!
I see, so often, people getting their children treats and toys every time they are at a store. Why then, is it surprising when their children ask for things all the time, show discontent and disrespect to their things? Not only that, but they grow up to think they can just splurge and buy things for themselves that they don't need, whenever they want. Lax spending and greed is a very dangerous combination.
If we buy many toys for our children for Christmas-they will not have as much appreciation for them. I see it time and time again. Children with a big pile of presents open one gift and are on to the NEXT one before they have even realized what was in the first package...even if that was the thing they wanted MOST. Of course, it is harder to simplify Christmas gift-giving if you have spent year after year indulging. I don't know of any child that would be content with one or two special gifts after having opened dozens in years past.
Excess can be HARMFUL to your child. We should think more about what our actions will do to our children over time. Will it cause our children to be ungrateful? Unsatiatably greedy? Unwise spenders? The object, after all, is for them to grow into responsible, wise men and women.
Seeking to use your money wisely is something that needs to happen DAILY-365 days a year. Not just at Christmastime. But at Christmas, we need to be ESPECIALLY on guard against those who are trying to rob us by appealing to our senses. There is absolutely NO NEED for us to be going $20 BILLION dollars in debt from Christmas shopping.
It is unwise, unsafe, and speaks VOLUMES about the types of children we are raising.