A Long December

Many of you out there reading this are hurting.

The economic news is grim, and even though I believe the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, that doesn’t change the stark reality of things.

Most of us have lost a large swath of our retirement savings in the last year. My overall retirement savings has gone down about 30% over the past thirteen months, even with late 2007 and 2008 contributions.

Some of us have lost our jobs. I have at least three friends who have been downsized in the past calendar year.

All of us are uncertain right now – and that’s understandable. We’re looking towards living cheaper and letting go of the cultural trend towards overspending that has happened over the past several years.

Right now, many of us are looking forward to December – and to the holiday season – with some joy and some trepidation.

Can we afford to travel this year?

Can we afford to put a lot of Christmas presents under the tree – or should we?

Shouldn’t we scale back this year – big time?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. I’m asking myself these same questions, as are millions of others out there.

But the answer to it is easy – and it’s right in front of our faces.

It’s easy to get caught up in the expenses of December – the parties, the presents, and the inevitable bills.

But that’s not what the holiday season is about.

It’s about time, not money. It’s about sitting around with your favorite loved ones, telling tall tales and playing games. It’s about the bright smile on your child’s face regardless of what’s under the tree. It’s about holding your grandmother’s hand and wishing her a merry Christmas, knowing that she’s been there for you over and over again throughout your life and also knowing that she might not be there forever.

So, yes, by all means be frugal this Christmas when it comes to your money. Cut back on the extravagant presents and focus on more thoughtful items. Tone down the scale of the parties – there’s no need to have a huge bacchanal this year.

But don’t cut down on the time. Savor every minute of it.

Because in the end, the time you spend with the people around you is the most valuable thing of all. No expensive present, no ostentatious party, nothing can compare to that time.

A less expensive present than usual is quickly forgotten. What’s remembered is the time spent together.

It may be a long December for some, but few things will make it better than focusing on what’s important and letting the rest drop off to the side.

And its been a long December and theres reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I cant remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

– Counting Crows, A Long December

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