Breaking Money Silence Over the Holidays and Spending Less

The holiday season is upon us. Everywhere you turn you are bombarded with messages to shop, overspend, and be merry. But you know that overshopping rarely makes you happy for very long. Instead, it usually leads to anxiety, fear, and a sense of dread when the credit card bills come in.

To avoid spending too much this holiday season consider breaking money silence. Money silence is the term I use to describe the societal taboo against talking openly and honestly about money. This silence is especially strong from Thanksgiving to New Years when our consumer-driven culture is in overdrive telling us that if you really love your family you will shower them with store-bought gifts. Take back control by deciding when and how you want to invest your time, energy, and financial resources this year.

One of my favorite holidays was when my family talked about money and agreed to not exchange store-bought gifts. Instead, my father rented a ski condo and my family spent three days over the holidays skiing together. We each picked one secret Santa and bought this person one gift not to exceed $30. I got ski goggles that I wore proudly all season long. What I learned that year was the material goods you receive are not what really matters. The people, experiences, and spirit of the holiday do.

Breaking money silence often leads to spending less and enjoying the people in your life a little more. Why not try it this holiday season and see what happens? You just may end up with more precious memories and more money in the bank in the New Year.

Here are a few tips for breaking money silence this holiday season.

Identify and share your holiday money mindsets.
Everyone has a money mindset that is made up of their automatic thoughts and beliefs about money and its purpose in life. Ask someone you love to share his or her money mindset with you. Use the following questions to get the dialogue started.

  • How much did your family spend on presents when you were growing up?
  • What nonfinancial activities did your family engage in?
  • What family holiday experiences did you enjoy the most and why?
  • How might you honor that tradition this year? 

Take the seasonal money messages challenge.
Challenge your family to identify as many seasonal money messages as they can in twenty-four hours. Look for these messages in advertisements, music, movies, and on social media. Write down the slogans or sayings you notice and then at the end of the day the person with the most money messages wins. Once a winner is declared, discuss how the messages about spending and gifting impact your finances and your emotions during the holidays. What would you like to do differently this year? 

Remember it is the thought (or experience) that counts.
Research shows us that shared experiences have a more positive impact on our psyche than buying stuff. Discuss with your partner, a friend or family how you might do something together instead of buying each other gifts. What would it feel like to not exchange gifts? What would you miss about getting and receiving a gift? What would you not miss? Talk it through then mindfully make a decision about how to celebrate together this year.

How will you break money silence this year? What impact do you think it will have on your spending and shopping behaviors?

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