Christmas is supposed to be a season full of joy. And sometimes, you have to be intentional about protecting that joy. One thing that instantly puts the spirit of the season at risk is comparison, because it doesn’t just steal your joy—it steals your paycheck, too. One minute you’re scrolling through social media, then suddenly you’re impulse buying matching plaid outfits for the whole family because your friend posted pictures of her family in matching outfits, and you want your family to look festive and put-together too . . . and the spiral continues. (Been there.)
Comparison spirals almost always lead to spending. And for a lot of people, these spirals lead to debt, which is exactly what we don’t want as we head into the holidays. So, if talk of comparison spirals and unwanted debt already has you feeling grumpy, don’t turn into the Grinch just yet. With a little thinking and planning ahead, there’s still time to make sure that this year, you love your Christmas and not someone else’s. Here are five tips to help you steer clear of those comparison traps and create a Christmas you love.
1. Have a family meeting
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That’s right, it’s time for an old-fashioned family chat. Grab your spouse, kids, siblings, parents—whoever you celebrate Christmas with—and tell them you’re doing a seasonal priority check and want their input. Find out which traditions are most important to your people, then cut out the traditions that are more draining than rewarding. Whatever it looks like for you, reevaluate your holiday routine and eliminate things that aren’t life-giving.
2. Set boundaries with a budget
Come on, you guys knew I wasn’t going to leave this one out! Now that you’re clear on your Christmas priorities, it’s time to make a Christmas budget. The best thing about a budget is it creates boundaries and puts you in control, which means you get to decide where your money goes. You can cut out any expenses that aren’t important to you (like that subscription you never use or that elaborate Elf on the Shelf setup) to make room in the budget for things you do want to spend money on.
3. Put the extra money toward experiences
Speaking of budgets, let’s talk about what to do when you have a little extra room in your Christmas budget. Why not buy some hot cocoa, load up your family in the car, and go look at Christmas lights? Or you can give a few dollars to each of your kids and take them to pick out new ornaments for the tree. Or better yet, buy some cheap craft supplies and let them create their own ornaments. The point is to think about what would be fun for you and your family, then take that extra money and turn into a memorable experience. (And remember: We’re trying to avoid comparison spirals, so you get bonus points if you don’t share the entire day on social media!)
4. Take a break
In the spirit of creating margin this holiday season, be sure to build in rest for yourself. Setting aside time to slow down and relax is just as important as setting a budget and boundaries. Think about the love you’ll be able to share with others if you’re calm and rested during the chaos. This is an easy, effective way to be a good steward of your energy during Christmas.
5. Find the joy in generosity
One thing I know for sure is that generosity generates true joy, both in your own heart and in others. And when you create space in your life, both in your calendar and your budget, you’ll have more opportunities to be generous. We were made to bless others, so find ways, big or small, for you and your family to give to others this holiday season.
All right, let’s recap: Christmas should never be about comparison.
Christmas is about joy. Remember, the joy you spread to your family, friends and community is directly connected to the joy you create for yourself—and it’s not selfish to want the holidays to be a life-giving experience for you, too. If you’ll take some time to make a plan and set a few boundaries, you’ll be celebrating a comparison-free Christmas this year.
And trust me, that’s a worthwhile investment!
* Rachel Cruze is a two-time #1 national best-selling author, financial expert and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. She has appeared on Good Morning America, TODAY Show and Live! With Kelly & Ryan, among others. Since 2010, Rachel has served at Ramsey Solutions, where she teaches people to avoid debt, save money, budget and how to win with money at any stage in life. Follow Rachel on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube or online at rachelcruze.com.