A Financial Survival Guide for Thanksgiving and Christmas test

Posted by: Leo Marte, CFP®, MBA | Nov 20 2023

Is your excitement starting to build with the upcoming holiday season, or is this a season of anxiety for you? Families gather together for a bountiful dinner on Thanksgiving night, followed by a shopping spree on Black Friday, and ending in unwrapping gifts with the kids on Christmas Day.

This guide for Christians will help you think about approaching the holiday season differently and hopefully avoiding a pocket hangover.

Money talks at Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner is one of those events that people love and cringe at simultaneously. Your family gets together to eat a ton of food, kids are running around sugared up on pumpkin pie, and adults reach for their fair share of cookies too. Since the family is all together, people take advantage of a captive audience to share upcoming or recent job changes or show you their beautiful brand new car! Inevitably, it all devolves into conversations about money or politics, which are not always the most comfortable.

Here are some helpful tips to ace your dinner chatter like a champ in person or over video:

  • Be kind - If a family member shares money plans with you that you think are excessive or unnecessary, please hold back. It may not be your choice of how to spend money, but they are sharing their joy with you, not asking you to approve of their purchase. When somebody sends you a picture of their brand new Camaro, just smile and say, “cool!”. And don’t be tempted to keep up with the Jones’!
  • Share, don’t tell - There is no better way, in my opinion, to inspire others to take action than sharing the financial accomplishments you are thankful for this year. If you finally paid off your debt after much sacrifice and penny-pinching, that could inspire your uncle or cousin to get on the right track as well. Just be mindful of not boasting since nobody likes a show-off. If you know people who need help with money basics, our Master Class Financial Planning for Christians can help them get started on their money journey.
  • Keep moving - If your family members are getting into a sticky money conversation that you feel uncomfortable with, maybe it’s time to go into the next room to join someone else or help the cleaning crew in the kitchen do some dishes.

When dinner starts to digest, your mind will likely shift to the next step - Black Friday.

Have a Plan for your Black (Friday) Ops Mission

If you plan to go to the store or browse the internet to check out what’s on sale after dinner, you have already fallen into the trap! Start planning for Black Friday early when circulars become available. Think about what you need at home that you don’t have or potentially pricey items that you need to replace soon (a TV, vacuum cleaner, etc.) as the month goes on. Jot them down in a list (we use the AnyList app) and be ready to purchase what is on that list. Give yourself some room in the budget for fun or unexpected items on a same-day sale, but otherwise, stick to the plan, and your pocket will thank you.

Some families take the opportunity to do all their holiday shopping during Black Friday, and if you follow a disciplined approach, you will likely get the best deals to satisfy your gift list. Have those conversations with your gift recipients now to know what discounts to look for when the stores open.

Black Friday is just the beginning of all the commercial activity surrounding Christmas, which we will discuss next.

Celebrating Christmas and Jesus

If we are honest with ourselves, it’s easy to see that we celebrate two holidays in December. One is the Christmas that has been created by the savvy marketers on Madison Avenue, and for believers, the birth of Jesus. Let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with enjoying the cultural Christmas season, along with celebrating faith. There are ways in which both can integrate well.

One of the common misconceptions which cause significant financial strain for families is that they think the only way to celebrate is by buying things or engaging in other activities that require money. Are you looking for ways to celebrate Christmas differently this year? Here are some ideas to think about:

  • Spend time together - When speaking to friends and family with great holiday memories, one theme I seem to notice is how they focus on quality time. They narrate how they spent time with their parents, siblings, and extended family. This year, consider dedicating time during Christmas day to do something special with your closest friends or family, like watching a Christmas movie, reading the nativity story together, or staying in your pajamas all day!
  • Check out a candlelight service - I encourage you to attend your local church for a Christmas service. There is something special about seeing many families get together with candles and singing songs together. It always helps me remember that the focus of the holiday is not me. If you can’t make it to a church, maybe you take from liturgical traditions and light an advent wreath in your home.

Let’s close this guide with a verse that encapsulates this holiday season’s real focus. Luke 2:10b-11 says, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

We wish you an abundant holiday season!

Leo Marte is a Christian financial advisor and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Abundant Advisors provides financial advice for Christians with convenient virtual meetings. Let’s talk if you are ready to make the next move.