Christian Financial Advice and Biblical Stewardship

Plan for the Holidays While Time is On Your Side

  • 2005 26 Aug
Plan for the Holidays While Time is On Your Side

Once again we are proud to present Christmas in August — an annual tradition to encourage readers to begin thinking about holiday preparations early — while it is still summer.

If you are or have ever been plagued by consumer debt, I can nearly guarantee that revolving expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation.

The problem? Procrastination. Face it, when it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend. The opposite is also true: The sooner you get started the less you’ll spend.

Why we procrastinate

Everyone procrastinates in some area. And some people procrastinate about everything. Why do we do it?

• We feel overwhelmed. The holiday expectations we place on ourselves plus those that come from our families, the community, even the church can be so great we feel paralyzed. So we do nothing until the only choice we have is to spend as much money as it takes to get by.

• We overestimate how much time we need. The task appears to be so over-whelming we assume it will take forever. So rather than doing even a little bit, we do nothing.

• We overestimate how much time we have. From where we sit here in August, Christmas seems so far away. We tell ourselves we have "plenty of time!"

• We overestimate our abilities. Procrastinators have an unrealistic sense of time. If we believe we can finish the task in say 3 hours, we put it off until only 3 hours remain. That leaves no margin, no room for error — no allowance for the law of life that says things rarely go as planned.

• We have to do it perfectly. Experts tell us that at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly — and fear that we might not — we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.

• We say we work better under pressure. Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenaline rush. Procrastinators believe they cannot operate without that creative surge and so they sit back and wait for it to happen.

The way to deal with procrastination is to identify why you do it. As it relates to the topic of Christmas specifically, ask yourself:

What price have I paid in the past for the delay?

Do I really want to pay that price, or even more, again this year? If the answer to the last question is yes, drop everything and get to the beach. You have lots of time; you don’t need be thinking about the holidays yet.

If on the other hand you are not willing to go into debt to measure up to others’ expectations, read on.

How to stop procrastinating

Get started. Once you are in motion it will be easier to keep going.

Write it down. Reduce your plans to paper. Seeing things in black and white eliminates the unknown and provides a realistic playing field.

Work with the time you have. Make a simple timeline, then break the project down into small, manageable parts. Even five minutes is enough time to get something done when you have a plan.

• Set a series of small deadlines. As an example, give yourself a date one week from today to have your gift list written. Share your deadline with someone who will nudge you toward accountability.

• Find the simpler way. Now, while you are still months away from experiencing the powerful emotions of the season, determine ways you can reasonably scale back and simplify. Make room in your holiday plans for relaxation and enjoyment.

• Be opportunistic. Whether it’s picking up shells along the shore to adorn a picture frame or finding a bargain collectible at a tag sale during your summer vacation, over the next 20 weeks or so many opportunities will present themselves. Take full advantage of them.

• Be realistic. Set reasonable limits both in time and money.

This really is the best time of the year to start thinking about the most wonder-ful time of the year.

The pressure is off so you can think clearly.

© 2005 The Cheapskate Monthly. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

    "The Cheapskate Monthly" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt.  What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt.  Today, "The Cheapskate Monthly" is read by close to 100,000 Cheapskates.   Click here to subscribe.