See, I turned in my car lease a few months earlier than planned so I used my holiday savings for the first payment, taxes, and fees.
Every year, I set aside an escrow account of sorts. If you have one set up with your mortgage, you know what I’m talking about; If not, it’s just like a super short-term savings account where the money might not be sitting inside that account for more than a month.
Rather than covering taxes and insurance like a mortgage escrow account does, all the money I put in there is for larger irregular expenses like vacations, insurance premiums, holidays, my medical deductible, vet visits, etc.
Every year, I tally up all the estimated yearly expenses, divide them by 12, and include that $500/month or so in my budget to be automatically transferred to a separate checking account. I discuss this in greater length in this blog post.
My point here is that I had $500 left for Christmas and Hanukkah stuff and I used that $500 for my new car instead. But here’s where it starts to get interesting.
I’m finally noticing that I tend to sabotage my holiday savings every year. I used to think it was just normal end-of-year accounting errors, but then I’d pad my “escrow” fund the following year and still come up short.
Expert tip: If you feel like you’re sabotaging something, check in with yourself to see why. You might not actually value what you think you do.
What I didn’t see was that I was making a choice here. It’s the same choice I make every year. I don’t really want to spend that money on gifts. I deliberately chose using that money for my car and not using that money for Chrismukkah.
I could have waited until February for the new car. I chose not to. Sure, I can justify it to make it seem like it couldn’t wait (the mileage was getting close to the max, I got a good deal on the new car, what if a piano fell out of the sky and landed on my old car right before I had to turn it in?).
The point is that I no longer have the money I was planning on using to buy gifts to actually buy gifts. I’m driving it. And, honestly, I don’t feel bad. Vroom, vroom! (I’m actually not much of a car person. I’m just glad I got the car shopping process over with for another 3 years.)
While I was sitting in the car dealership, I was contemplating just giving everyone a card that read “Sorry you’re not getting anything for Chrismukkah this year but look at my pretty new car. Here’s a candy cane!”
It’s definitely not my love language, but I like giving people gifts. I’m really good at finding that perfectly sentimental or hilariously pranky gift for everyone. Everyone who has ever received a gift from me knows that already. I don’t have to keep proving myself.
Side Note: Here’s a blog post about keeping your holiday spending aligned with your values this year.
But I did want my own Christmas tree now that I’m single and living alone. And I did want to put some gifts under that tree (although now that I’m writing this, I realize I could have totally wrapped empty Amazon boxes).
And this is where financial resilience comes into play.
I still chose to buy a $65 fake pre-lit tree and $60-worth of ornaments and organic candy canes, I spent $135 on gifts, and then the $20 on outfits for my dogs because I lost all the other outfits I got for them over the years, and today I have to go out and find Chanukah candles.
I can’t speak too much about how I only spent $135 on the gifts because there are several people on my mailing list who have miraculously made it onto my Nice List this year but let me explain my financial maneuvering here.
What I did:
I kept it super minimalistic this year. Everyone on my list is in a relationship which means I cut my list in half and got one gift per couple. Like I said before, I like giving gifts, and I’m good at picking something sentimental or meaningful or just really funny. This year I stuck mostly with cheap gag gifts.
I’m using $300 of my monthly discretionary spending for this holiday stuff which means $300 less for groceries, gas, going out, etc. So basically I’m just trying to use up what’s in my freezer and pantry and eating a LOT of rice and beans.
I set a spending limit that feels good to me. Some people want to have lots and lots of money to not think about their expenses. Back during my corporate 9-to-5 (or rather 7-to-6) days, I had lots and lots of money to not have to worry about my expenses. Now, I earn and spend significantly less but I feel fabulously wealthier. The numbers matter less than you think.
What I didn’t do:
I refused to tap into my emergency savings because I just didn’t want to. I would rather cut back spending in another area than increase my overall spending. That’s just what felt good to me personally.
That money is for oopsy daisy stuff and quite frankly, my dogs haven’t had any emergency vet visits since last winter (coincidentally at the time of this writing, one of my dogs started limping this morning) so maybe I’m slightly superstitious about tapping into those funds just yet.
I could earn more money if I wanted to but I’m not. My schedule is pretty packed already with some really exciting new programs coming in 2018 and I just don’t want to do more work to give gifts to people who already have everything they need.
Besides, I have so much food already. I always wanted to do a pantry cleanse before I started noticing things had expired. This is the choice that feels good to me and it feels good to have a challenge.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it a million more times – budgets are just boundaries that help us align our money with our values. Right now it seems my values are 1. New car, then 2. Giving Chrismukkah gifts, and then 3. instantly satisfying my food cravings.
Let me be clear about one thing:
I am not a victim of my finances and neither are you.
Whether we have a fixed income or a variable income, we make choices every day over how we earn that money and how we spend it.
I will probably always remain fascinated by how awesome and empowering it is to have the abundance of choice in our lives. I will never take that for granted.
Maybe that lesson is what I’m giving myself for Chrismukkah this year. (PS, Chrismukkah is another brilliant concept that gets me out of 8 nights of gifts.)
How are you doing so far this holiday season? Comment below and let me know!