Over the next several days, we’re celebrating Christmas with my parents, my wife’s parents, with a few extended family groups, and with a circle of friends, as well as the five of us celebrating Christmas morning at home.
Sure, there’s a lot of stress involved. We have a pretty tight schedule and lots of gifts and little details to remember and lots of driving during what will likely be some dodgy weather.
What we don’t have, thankfully, is financial stress on top of that. We’re debt free. We have a budget for the holiday season and have a firm grip on what we’re spending. If something goes wrong, we have an adequate emergency fund to simply handle it.
Sometimes, it can feel like achieving those things is simply a lot of sacrifice just to have a number in a bank account. I can clearly see why people get so frustrated when trying to make changes in their life. It feels like sacrifice without really changing anything.
Here’s the secret: it changes a lot of things.
I can’t imagine how challenging this week would be if we had financial stress on top of it. It would add another severe layer of stress on top of the season.
Right now, the joys of the season – seeing family, spending time with people I care about, opening and sharing some thoughtful gifts, reflecting on all the bounty in my life – override the stress and create a wonderful time of the year.
With that added financial stress, it might not be that way.
I can recall some Christmases from my childhood that, looking back on them, were signs of the stresses running through my family. At least some of that stress was financial in nature – in fact, I’d be willing to bet that finances were at the root of a lot of the problems that I saw.
My children, thankfully, will likely never experience a Christmas family meltdown. We don’t have that financial stress. Our only stress is about details and family.
The biggest source of holiday stress is absent from our lives.
That means our lives and hearts are much more open to the other joys of the season. We can open gifts this year without any worry in the back of our heads about how we’re going to pay for this. We can hang out with family members without that little note of stress that financial insecurity can add to all situations. If an emergency occurs, we can shrug it off and just handle it without incurring a complete meltdown.
Financial responsibility has given this to us. All of those hard choices and little sacrifices have taken nothing away from the celebration elements that really matter, but they’ve also added a little bit more to the holiday season – and to every other moment of our lives.
Stress makes us angry. It adds to our frequency of illness. It makes us sleep more and makes us less efficient with the things we need to get done. Financial security minimizes at least one major source of stress in one’s life.
I never see that more clearly than I do during the holiday season.