Dickson: All I want for Christmas is to control my holiday spending!

Dec 11, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: Feb 7, 2024, 12:38 pm

holiday shoppers get ready to start spending at city creek mall...

File photo: Shoppers at City Creek Mall. (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

(Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

Holiday spending woes: It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem it’s me.

Every year as I’m cleaning up the mayhem that is my living room after Christmas morning, I swear. I swear I will never. Spend. This. Much. Again.

It’s obscene.

Then every year, as the weather turns colder and my spirits rise, I start to spoil the kids like they’re going into hibernation and will never be able to get anything for themselves ever again.

I thought talking to you about my holiday spending here might be the first step toward recovery. Then I called my favorite certified financial planner, Shane Stewart.

A holiday spending confession

“My wife and I had a similar conversation,” he told me. “It’s nice to spend and nice to give, but could we make it more meaningful?”

I’m asking that, too. How do I make Christmas more meaningful for my family?

“This year,” Stewart said, “we’ve tried to look for things that are meaningful to the individual, to a child or a family member, but maybe not so expensive. We’ll let you know on December 26th how that went.”

The Mom gift holiday spending dilemma

As moms, we get stuck on “Well, he has 4 gifts, so he has to have 4 gifts.” Especially when the kids are younger, we have to try to be as fair to each child as possible so no one feels left out.

Do I need my family’s buy-in before I scale back on Christmas or can I just implement that change?

“That depends on the age of the child,” Stewart advised. “If the child is really young, it’s difficult to have that conversation and get them to understand. As kids start to get in their preteen years, it’s very helpful to have that kind of conversation because they need to know how to manage money and learn.”

In a way, whether you want to scale back or need to because money is tight, it can actually be “a blessing in disguise,” Stewart said. “It forces you to have those conversations. It forces you to be prudent.”

No more stuff!

Maybe it’s my age, but as much as I love Christmas, I just don’t want any more stuff. I want less stuff! I want to give stuff away. I asked my kids this year to please not buy me any presents.

“It’s not necessarily age but maturity,” Stewart explained. “You’ve been around the block a few times and thought, ‘OK, I’ve seen that. I don’t get as much utility, as an economist would say, out of more stuff. I’ve reached that limit where more stuff just doesn’t give me any more utility.”

Utility, joy, happiness, value – whatever you want to call it – I have definitely reached my limit. All I want now are experiences, but I want to live within my means in all things. And that begins with a budget.

It’s never too late to start

It’s never too late to start tracking what you’re spending. When was the last time you sat down and wrote down what you spent this month?

“If you’re not tracking what you spending, it’s painful at first to see what’s going on,” Stewart said. “It can be painful, but it’s necessary because it’s the first part of planning. You can’t really plan your spending unless you know what your patterns are.”

Maybe your New Year’s resolution this year should be tracking what you’re spending and when you’re spending it.

“If you have the money and can give more expensive gifts that are also meaningful, congratulations,” Stewart said. “But most people in the real world need to think about this a little bit. A little advanced planning will go a long way. Then the only thing you have to clean up at the end of the holiday is the paper and not your accounts.”

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View on KSL NewsRadio. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. 

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Dickson: All I want for Christmas is to control my holiday spending!