Friday, December 11, 2015

Beware the Commercial Christmas Syndrome

Christmas is practically here! Suddenly all the things I put off until later because it was too early, now need doing immediately because it will soon be too late!

While it might feel like (and actually be) panic time, it's the worst time possible on our pocketbooks for us to panic! When we feel stress, we spend more. We don't take
the time to compare prices, we don't watch as closely for quality buys and we don't even think about creating our own decorations and gifts.

"Look, Mommy!"
The little girl was pointing to a middle aged couple who were carrying bags and boxes and coming quickly down the center of the mall walkway. Now and then one of them bumped another shopper with a box or bag, but their faces were set in grim determination and they plowed a path for themselves straight ahead.
Mother grasped the little girl's hand and whispered fiercely, "It's not nice to point!"
"What's the matter with them?" the little girl asked.
"Shh... they have Commercial Christmas Syndrome. Hush, now."
The little girl stared at the couple as they came closer and edged closer to her mother. The woman noticed her and suddenly a small, fake smile plastered itself on her face. The little girl simply stared...

But worst of all, we begin to exhibit the symptoms of the Commercial Christmas Syndrome.

Credit cards begin to grow in our wallets and sales flyers bring a flush to our faces. Shoulders become rigid and calloused from pushing our way through crowds of other shoppers. We have trouble holding coherent conversations and often jump up from our seats at inappropriate times to make notes or phone calls. We become exhausted and develop dark circles under our eyes. A forced smile is often, but not always, noticeable.

Other symptoms include headaches, muscular tension and irritability, which make sleep difficult. That, in turn, diminishes the ability to think clearly and symptoms worsen dramatically.

The Cure

The cure is quite simple, but it must be applied firmly and continually over a period of several hours, or, in some cases, days.

A cup of hot tea or coffee or hot chocolate taken while sitting in a rocking chair is a good way to start. One must spend a few moments in a comfortable place with a comforting drink or snack for the cure to begin to work properly.

When you're ready, you may begin. Follow these steps:

    * Remove all credit cards from your wallet, purse or pocket. This may be painful, so prepare yourself first by meditating on a list of bills that will come immediately after Christmas.
    * Find (or make) a list of names for whom you still need to buy gifts. If there is a name you can eliminate, do so now.
    * Set a limit on what you  will spend for each person. Be realistic from your point of view, not theirs. If you can only afford five dollars a person, then that's all you can afford.
    * For each of the other names, think hard about what they would like. Concentrate on that person; think about their styles, their hobbies, their interests. Write down whatever comes to mind and work on it until you know what you can get them. (Hint: a basket filled with homemade goodies or an IOU for a service is appropriate for almost anyone.)
    * Make a list of frugal things to do during the season. Tree lighting ceremonies, church and school pageants and Christmas parades all set the scene frugally. Or have a cup of coffee with an old friend. Go caroling or ice skating or looking at other lighting displays.
    * Don't make shopping for gifts, food or decorations the number one priority!
    * Make your Christmas menu, then cut at least one (but more if you can), item from it. Substitute a more expensive dish with a less expensive one. Think of what your family and/or guests will really eat.

Keep on applying this cure until you feel it taking hold, but don't quit too soon. Commercial Christmas Syndrome has a tendency to reappear suddenly without warning, so be on the alert for it!

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