Christmas is supposed to a time of love and joy, but it turns into a time of arguments and conflict when it comes to spending money. It’s the topic that leads to conflict more often than not during the holidays.
Studio 5 Relationship Coach Dr. Matt Townsend helps us avoid the spending conflict.
Financial stress and Christmas apparently go hand in hand. Just ask Scrooge and Bob Cratchet. That resembles the typical financial stand-off that so many couples go through every year when it comes to managing a budget. The Cratchets needed more money and Scrooge wanted to cut back on what he was giving. Our choices, when it comes to compromising on the finances at Christmas time, can be broken into three very basic options. Dig in and you and your spouse can both fight for what you want, knowing full well the other can’t or won’t budge. One of you can give in and let the other win, while you lose, although for Cratchet, his family really would have suffered. Or we can both come up with a change of heart and both make an effort to understand the goals and rationale of the other, and gift each other the gift of finding a solution that is mutually beneficial. The ability to have a change of heart is really as simple as Ebenezer Scrooge demonstrated by simply having three simple conversations — one with Christmas Past, one with
Christmas Present and One with Christmas Future. Each of these conversations will open up our hearts to understand both the motivations and goals of each other. They will also prepare the way for finding a new way of seeing how to financially pay for the holiday. Our goals with these conversations is not to try to convince the other to our position, but simply to open our minds to see and our ears to hear how our partner views the Christmas experience. If you remember in the Christmas Story, what eventually led to a change of heart in Scrooge wasn’t a profound debate with a convincing power points presentation, but instead when he had the chance to better understand the Christmas Story from another person’s perspective. His change of heart, and the Cratchets understanding of his position, created a Christmas Spirit that elevated the holiday for all who were involved. Here’s a guide to the three conversations we should have when it comes to finances.
Christmas Past Conversation
In this conversation we need to begin to uncover what Christmas really means to you and your partner. There are obvious reasons why they may feel so inclined to want to spend so much money during this season or to buy so many presents for their children. Dive into their rationale and try to figure out what drives them to be such a spender or a saver during this season. Together discuss your favorite memories about your shared Christmas’ together. What are your happiest memories around Christmas with your children and family? In discussing your favorite memories, explore what part the finances had to do with those memories. Was the money spent a major contributor to the experiences you had, or while discussing your memories, were the presents and expenses ever mentioned at all? What were the tangible and intangible things mentioned in your memories? What lessons do you remember about Christmas’ past? What feelings do you remember having when the holiday bills arrived in January? Do you remember feeling regret for the spending or joy? Remember this is a discussion to understand and not an interrogation to convict your partner. In the end for any compromise to take place you will both have to have a change of heart and that change begins with understanding them from their position.
Christmas Present Conversation
This second discussion is important because it will help both of you to get on the same page financially today. In this discussion review the current state of finances in your family. Sit down and discuss how much debt you have outstanding. Write these numbers down on a piece of paper so they can be easily remembered and understood for the visual person. Remember that Scrooge was actually taken to witness the life of the Cratchets, real time, while they were living it. Having a strong visual reminder of what is going on can be the best deterrent. What are your happiest memories of Christmas with our families? Discuss your current income and compare those numbers to the debt. Project future bills that may be coming which could include taxes, donations to charity or other year end expenses. By clearly communicating the current state of the finances right now, you will create a fairly clear understanding of where you stand as a family. Many times, simply knowing where we are can easily help us to get to where we want to be. Just like when we’re trying to find a store on a map at the mall, we usually begin with the little asterisk that’s titled, “You are Here!”
Christmas Future Conversation
In this final discussion, project your life forward a couple of months or even years. What do you want to be able to feel and experience with your family three months from now. What do you want your children to say about the Christmas that is now long gone? How do you want to feel six months from now about the Christmas debt? What lessons do you most want your children to hand down to their children about the real meaning of Christmas? How do you and your partner want to be seen when it comes to your finances by your children and grandchildren? What are our shared goals dreams and desires financially? Do you want to retire early? Do you both want to work? By creating a clear understanding of your shared financial future, it will help to reinforce what needs to be done this Christmas to get where you want to go.
Now take all of your shared learnings from these three conversations and ask yourself one final question…
Tiny Tim’s Question:
What is the most important thing I need to do financially this Christmas, to truly bless my partner and family?
Then both of you can discuss your answers, combine your answers together and commit to each other that you will deliver the blessing to your family.
Matt is making a special offer to help your family this holiday season.
30-40% off Books, CD’s, Date Nights
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