Rethinking Traditions to Save the Pocketbook

I'm in sticker shock...over Christmas cards.

It isn't that Christmas cards in and of themselves are necessarily expensive. I was pleased to get forty of them on-sale at my local grocery store, when I found myself stuck at the auto mechanic's shop much longer than anticipated and walked to the grocery store for something to do. I had the cards signed and addressed just before my car was finished. I was initially proud that I didn't waste the time, even though I was caught off-guard without enough work to do while I waited.

I spent $10.86 on Christmas cards. That's not too bad. But then I spent $17.60...on postage.

It cost me $28.46 just for Christmas cards.

Ouch.

If I had a huge extended family throughout the country, I suppose the expense of sending a card to them is justified. The thing is, I do not have any extended family at all. Most of the people to whom I sent Christmas cards are people I see all the time.

In our guilt-laden, "we-have-to-do-it-all-or-we-are-failures" society, I think we have a lot of pressure to do traditional things because they are,well, traditional. We see advertisements encouraging us to buy that present for the obscure second-cousin-twice-removed, reminding us of how great we will be thought of if we do. We have to bake at least five varieties of holiday cookies; go to every party and host at least one of our own; have a stash of "emergency presents" in case someone gives us a present and we were not prepared to give one in return; get those Christmas cards out early, etc. Businesses certainly have a vested interest in you trying to do it all, so they are not going to let up on the message that it's all up to you to buy, buy, buy to make everything just perfect.

The only thing that makes a holiday perfect is doing that which makes you--and your family--happy.

When I was planning my holiday budget I figured I'd find some discounted Christmas cards (I still find buying cards on sale to be less expensive than making them myself), and put a dollar amount into the plan. I didn't add postage costs, which was a silly thing to do. (It's always those expenses for which you don't consider that can undermine a plan; even if you add a little for those surprise expenses, that "little" isn't always enough.) In my mind, $10 was a reasonable amount to spend for Christmas cards. However, now that I realize the true cost of those Christmas cards was $28.46, I'm reconsidering the value of those cards to others.

Which is also leading me to ask myself, "What other things am I doing for the holidays just because I've always done them and not because they add value to my experience, my family's experience, or the joy of others? And how much is it costing me financially?"

Save yourself some money and stress this season. Before heading out for Black Friday shopping--or holiday shopping any other day--think about the areas in which you are spending and make sure you are spending your money in areas where you really want them spent. If something is not of value to you, then don't feel guilty about dropping the expense, even if it has been tradition for you to do it before. Traditions are not carved in stone, but carved in your mind...and you can change that any time you want.

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Tags: Christmas, frugal, holiday, saving, shopping, spending, traditions

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