By Chuck Bentley
My husband and I have not been married very long. We grew up in homes where the holidays were celebrated in a grand way. I’m feeling pressure to do the same but my husband refuses to go into debt to do so. We have student loans and he wants those paid off as soon as possible. This has become a very emotional topic because our friends and family will likely be giving us very nice gifts at Christmas and we won’t be able to do much for them this year.
Holiday Stress Has Begun
Dear Holiday Stress,
I am so glad you wrote to me about this. Holiday stress is a terrible problem and can take the focus away from what truly matters. But you don’t have to live with it. There’s great hope for your family and I have some practical advice to help.
By the way, you are a very fortunate woman. In 2017, 74% of Americans admitted they failed to budget for the holidays and ended up an average $1,054 in debt. Give thanks for a husband who cares about eliminating debt. That will bless your marriage far more than you know right now.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are times for believers to celebrate the love and grace of God. It’s historically a time to be joyful, to savor favorite foods, to begin new traditions and keep the old, to give with no expectation of return. It’s truly a time to rejoice.
I grew up with a dog-eared Sears catalog that marked the pages of the things that my brother, sisters and I were dreaming would be under the tree. Even though Mom and Dad had a limited budget, they made sure we were able to get at least one thing we really wanted each Christmas.
Today, people both young and old have more than a catalog at their disposal. Magazines, social media, television, computer ads, radio, and billboards attempt to extract as much out of our budget between Thanksgiving and Christmas as possible. Many individuals suffer from self-induced pressure to decorate and make purchases to satisfy a longing to keep up or impress others. The fear of missing out plagues our society, plunging many into unnecessary debt, and even anxiety and depression.
To reduce or eliminate any pressure, give yourself a little margin by creating and sticking to a holiday budget. Ignore what the world says to do, and choose to honor your husband. You will experience peace and unity in your home, which is far better than expensive gifts under the tree. Ask God to unite your hearts and give you a common desire to observe the upcoming holidays.
- Pray for discipline, creativity, and joy
- Save money by eating at home
- Cook inexpensive meals
- Keep a holiday grocery list handy to buy items on sale
- Practice hospitality
- Make gifts and decorations
- Shop thrift stores
- Read a Christmas devotional together
- Am I coveting what I do not need?
- Why do I want to buy or do this?
- What benefit will it give me or others?
- Does it have a lasting impact?
- Does it glorify God?
- Can I rejoice with others who have it without my needing to have it also?
- Can I stay on budget?
One of the greatest threats to our walk with God is the trap of materialism. We must work at not being lured away from Him and spending money on our own desires so that we are no longer able to fulfill our primary purpose – to glorify God.
At first glance, the scriptural warnings about riches and their dangers might suggest that we should avoid all luxuries. But that’s simply not true. God does not prohibit us from enjoying the benefits of this world; after all, they are His.
The tenth commandment, Do not covet (Exodus 20:17) is an easy one to overlook because it happens in the heart. Rather than desiring what others have and are able to do, rejoice with them! Avoid judging them or feeling sorry for yourself. Give thanks and praise God for His mighty provision in your life and theirs.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
We can unintentionally get sucked into the grip of materialism and comparison in the midst of parties, pageants, and presents. We must choose to forego the notion of perfect families, decorations, and gifts. Nostalgia and media create expectations we cannot and should not strive for. It’s a matter of guarding our hearts and practicing what Paul told the Romans: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (12:2a)
The truth is that most of us can hardly remember what we received for Christmas last year or the year before. The most lasting of all gifts are those that convey true love and appreciation; even though they might not cost much money, the receiver will consider them priceless.