Spend Less at Christmas???

December 10, 2022

And he puzzled three hours, til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.” Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Though this line from the Grinch is probably familiar to us all it seems like we could take it a little more to heart (of whatever size).

I could give you the stats about spending and credit card debt at Christmas . . . okay I will give you some . . .

Expected spending on the holidays in US in 2022 – $942,000,000,000 to $960,000,000,000!!  That’s billions, I think, did I get the zeros right? It seemed even more stark with the zeros. (this amount sets a record for Christmas spending)

Americans gave about 485,000,000,000 to charity in 2021 (experts seems to think the 2022 numbers will be lower due to the recession) which is amazing and no doubt that money has contributed to so much good in the world, but it’s hard not to notice it is almost exactly half as much as we spend on Christmas – that’s not annual consumer spending, just Christmas.

Americans, on average put 65% of their holiday spending on their credit cards and by February 40% had not paid it off.

This doesn’t mean that spending any money on Christmas is wrong. Gifts is my love language so I get it. I love to give gifts – to find that perfect thing that will make a friend or family member smile, make their life easier and/or let them know how much I care about them. I also love getting that kind of gift. Gifts are not the issue. It’s the excess. In the US we tend to make a virtue of go big or go home in all things and when it comes to Christmas it has led to a frantic, unsustainable pace and cost.

The second practice from the Advent Conspiracy book a group us are reading together is spend less.

At the outset the Spend Less chapter acknowledges the challenges of this practice – “it is difficult to walk against the crowd who seem to want nothing more than to “eat, drink and be merry” . . .  and then do it all again. Spending less requires us to plan, research, and cultivate relationships – pursuits that are more taxing than flipping through the latest catalog or bingeing online.” (67)

Can we meet this challenge? Engage in intentional and thoughtful spending bringing compassion and responsibility to our choices and finding joy in giving while avoiding the frenzy and regret over-spending inevitably brings? Like many things it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – maybe make one change, subtract one thing from the list, reduce the spending budget by some small percentage?

I think spending less and spending with more intention are good practices in and of themselves, but the larger purpose, as with all of these practices, is to lean more fully into the reason we are celebrating in the first place. God breaking into our world to bring us to himself and call and empower us to live lives of justice and love toward all.



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