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The Holidays: Experience or Expense? 

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”— but it can also be the most expensive time of the year.

The holidays are supposed to be a season of joy, peace, and hope; none of which you can purchase on Amazon Prime. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us spend our time and money during the holidays trying to buy these intangible values disguised in the form of a sweater.

Every November, Americans spend time sharing with family and friends what we are most thankful for, only to turn around the next day, crazed by consumerism, determined to get the best deals on the hottest items for the holidays. How can you stay true to the real hallmarks of the season and avoid selling your soul or emptying your bank account in the process?

Here’s some “food for thought” to munch on while you’re munching on Christmas cookies.

Buying More Makes You Want More.

Similar to sugar cravings, spending more can make you crave more spending. Trust me, I know this from experience. When I had a well-paying job, I would spend up to $600 in one shopping trip. It never felt like I had enough.

In the last couple of years, however, I’ve had to taper my spending because my income decreased. In fact, this year I’ve only spent money on necessities like groceries and gas. I now feel more satisfied with what I have than when I was used to going on big spending binges—yeah, I’m shocked too. I’ve discovered buying more makes you want more. How did I cope with my shopping cravings? I took charge of my finances and stopped buying anything that wasn’t necessary. I went into survival mode.

You may not need to take measures as drastic as mine were, but you do have the same power over your bank account. You control your money, not vice versa.

Here are some things I’ve found helpful, which may also help you curb your spending this season.

•  Only go to stores that primarily sell groceries (sorry, Target doesn’t count)
•  Unsubscribe from store emails and avoid the “Promotions” tab in your inbox
•  Clear your browser history, bookmarks, and autofill credit card information
•  Delete autosaved payment on frequently used websites
•  For a time, do a fast from media to avoid advertisements (you may need to delete social apps on your phone)

Removing yourself from temptation is half the battle. It will be difficult to remove yourself from all temptation, but you can put precautions in place when they do arise (i.e. leave your cards at home).

When you have the urge to buy something new, try something new instead. Try one of “the things to do” on Trip Advisor for your city. Sign up for a class in your community to learn something new. The holidays are the perfect time to learn how to professionally decorate a gingerbread house and make homemade ornaments—plus, they make inexpensive gifts!

Being thankful means taking inventory of your life and realizing that, if you only value material things, it will never be enough. True joy and peace can only be found in enjoying the life you live and the people who are in it. You don’t need Amazon Prime for that. This season, I challenge you to find out if less really is more, by spending less money and spending more time focused on what truly matters—experiencing it.