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Planning Ahead vs. Buy Now, Worry Later

Credit Wise (featured column)
by Jennifer Wallis

The steady line of cars snaking to my local mall confirms that the holiday shopping season is in full force. With every commercial my 4 year old son, Kyle, watches his Christmas wish-list grows. I can see how people can easily become caught up in the spirit of giving and wind up blowing their budget to bits.

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In my distant past, I was like many others who never get around to planning for Christmas and then spend without thinking about the consequences. I guess I used to be on the “Buy now, worry later” plan. However, about 10 years ago, I decided that I wanted my holiday season to be as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

I came up with a plan for the holidays. Not only has it been successful, it has exceeded my greatest expectations. I decided to work a second job only during the holiday season. In my past life during college, before entering the financial world, I worked at a local garden center. Every year, the garden center sells live Christmas trees and completely decks out the store with gorgeous Christmas decorations.

The warehouse once stocked with feed and fertilizer is transformed into a fragrant fir forest and the seed counter becomes a tiny magical village, complete with train and skating pond. These people take their decorating very seriously. We used to spend hours in tree lighting and bow making class. I have not only retained these skills, I have honed them every year with my own seasonal decorating business.

The garden center does not offer home decorating services so we have formed a partnership and I do the decorating for their customers. Every year, I make enough to cover all of my Christmas gifts. I have many customers who use my services every year and usually add a few new customers, too. For me, the willingness to work a few weekends in addition to my regular job has really been a great payoff. Not only do I not have to worry about how to pay for presents, I also have a part time job where I am spreading Christmas cheer.

For each of you, I hope the holiday season is a special time instead of a stressful one. I know that it is easy to get caught up in the holiday hoopla and lose sight of why we celebrate the holiday. I try to do my best to make sure my son understands that the true meaning of Christmas is not found in any of the toy commercials he sees.

Our Christmas tradition is to spend Christmas Eve with family, put on our goofy reindeer pajamas and snuggle while we read “The Night Before Christmas.” After the Santa story, I remind him that even though it’s a great poem, it’s not what I believe is the true Christmas story. As he sits on my lap, blue eyes wide with wonder, I remind him of the story about the wise men, the manger, the star in the heavens and a certain baby that was born all those years ago.

I realize that in his young mind he probably drifts off to sleep with visions of Santa visiting baby Jesus in the manger or something. I want him to grow up knowing that even though it’s nice to give and receive, the commercialized Christmas we know today is not what the holiday was intended to be.

I think if we all keep sight of the spirit of Christmas; especially the part about family and love, we will all sleep a little better this holiday season.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

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Copyright © 2004 by Jennifer Wallis. All rights reserved.

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