Thanksgiving has historically been one of my favorite holidays as an adult.
You sit around a big table with your family, giving thanks and reminiscing on years past.
There’s always an endless amount of food, you stuff yourself until you practically burst, and then you pass out in a turkey semi-coma.
And probably the best part — no gift giving is involved!
It’s all about family and food.
Although I’ll admit, the past few years have become a bit more stressful, as our house has become the center of the festivities.
“With central localization comes great responsibility” (Or something like that.)
When your house becomes the holiday home-base, there’s now a ton of extra stuff you need to do, above and beyond the norm:
- Clean the house
- Rinse off the “fancy” dinnerware and glassware
- Vacuum up dog hair, clean slobber off the windows (bulldog owners only?)
- Scrub toilets (ickkkk….)
- Tidy up the entire house (or at least the main level, where people will be congregating)
- Go food shopping — buying items you wouldn’t normally have on hand, like appetizers, snacks, and beverages based on everyone’s individual tastes
- Plan the menu, including the timing for what goes in the oven when
- Do all “the stuff” on the day-of, and try to actually eat something in the midst of all the chaos
- Not to mention all of the cleanup …
Needless to say, this all takes some serious organization, To-Do lists, prioritization, and flexibility. (Hey, that actually sounds like my day job…)
And on top of everything else, there’s the strict training protocol for introducing any newcomers to our two puppers.
They’re both crazy, in their own right. But one of them is a lot less friendly and social than the other.
Which is kinda ironic, given the huge amount of socialization training we’ve actually provided to the big guy over the years.
Related Post: Who Doesn’t Love Adorable Bulldog Pics?
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
In previous posts, I’ve addressed my own social anxiety, and what that means for me. Well, my male dog is kind of the canine version of me, in a sense.
If there were such a thing as doggie social anxiety, he’d have it.
He prefers to be left alone, doesn’t like to be the center of attention, and all-out freaks if someone approaches him directly — especially a stranger.
The difference between the two of us is in our “fight or flight” response.
Where I’m more likely to retreat to a nearby restroom, or my car, or a city far, far away — my buddy will confront the danger head on, barking his head off, until the “perpetrator” retreats.
As you can imagine, this makes for a fun holiday gathering. Especially if any of our guests choose not to follow the outlined protocol.
It’s basically a series of steps that we’ve learned through the years, after paying thousands to dog trainer after dog trainer.
He needs to be approached excruciatingly slowly, in a certain way, so that he feels safe and protected in his environment.
And if anyone breaks that sequence, all hell breaks loose.
So this is something we adhere to, each and every holiday. And it can be exhausting.
We have to train every single person who walks into our house, on the proper way to meet our dog.
If they don’t listen (which sometimes they don’t), I have to do damage control and our poor little guy spends the rest of the day in his crate.
And don’t even get me started on all the self-proclaimed “dog people”, who think he’ll be just fine with them.
“But all dogs love me….!!”
Sorry, not this time.
So when we talk about holiday stress — yeah, it can be a challenge.
Waiting to Exhale
Over more recent years, I’ve often looked forward to the post-Thanksgiving activities. Once the meal is over, everything is cleaned up and put away, and I can finally relax.
Family and friends have left, and my dogs are free to roam about the house without me having to keep tabs on them.
At this point, my arms, legs, and back are usually aching. From standing, stirring, scrubbing, and stuffing all of the leftovers into the fridge. All I want to do is collapse on the couch, potentially with a glass of wine (if I feel so motivated).
And then I’ll pull out my laptop, diving headfirst into whatever pre-Black Friday bargains I can get my hands on.
Exclusive email notifications, flashing advertisements, countdown clocks — These low prices are only available for 7 more hours!!
The Rush: What can I find? 30% or even 40% off regular price … 50% off — it’s a steal!!
Because surely, whatever it is, this is something I absolutely, unequivocally NEED.
And if I don’t, then there must be someone on my Christmas list who would love it.
Add it all to my shopping cart, then maybe bump up the quantity, just in case.
The store might sell out, and then I’ll be SOL if I come back tomorrow wanting to order another one.
Or how about: This is such a great gift and awesome bargain, I can get one for my cousin, and another for myself. Because don’t I deserve to have nice things too?
Hey Big Spender
I’m not poking fun at any Black Friday shoppers. On the contrary, I’m telling you how this has played out for me in prior years. It’s never about needing these things, or really even wanting them.
It’s about the rush of finding a great bargain. Getting swept up in the Black Friday frenzy.
Conjuring up some self-worth by showing how savvy you are at finding the best price ever, on something you never really needed in the first place.
Also, it goes back to the days of doing everything humanly possible to deliver a somewhat-decent Christmas to two little boys.
I’ve mentioned in this post how we didn’t have a ton of money when our boys were growing up and we lived in our condo.
When Christmas rolled around, we pretty much had nothing saved. We were scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck.
Which was probably one of the pivotal moments, when we started this heinous reliance on credit cards. How can you possibly tell a 7 and 9 year old there’s no money for Christmas? It was around that time I was approved for my first Amazon credit account.
At the time, Amazon was still pretty new — and they didn’t have anywhere near the amount of merchandise that’s offered now. Amazon was founded in 1994, selling mainly books. It was around 1998 that they started selling other types of items.
Their toy selection was not that great. I basically added whatever cr*p I could find to my shopping cart, just so there would be something for them to open on Christmas morning.
And one month later, billing statement be damned. We were living in the moment.
Related Post: How to Stay Focused to Pay Off Debt
When Presents Backfire
Here is one Christmas memory I will never forget. I don’t think my partner likes when I tell this story, because it makes him feel bad. But I think there’s a definite lesson within it.
One year, the boys really wanted [whatever the video game system of the day was]. There were just so many throughout the years, it’s honestly all a blur. But I think it might’ve been a PlayStation. Which specific version, I have no idea.
Well, we had absolutely no money to buy Christmas gifts in general, much less an expensive game system. Of course, in the little suburban rich town where we lived, all of their friends would be getting one. Forget not having cash, we didn’t even have the credit to purchase one of these systems.
But what we did have was an Old Navy card.
The plan was: We’d order everything we could find on the Old Navy website — clothing, hoodies, sweats, slippers, socks, hats, gloves, anything.
Wrap it all up in as many separate packages as possible. The more gifts for them to open, the better.
Then when we received our next paychecks, we’d use what we could, along with any cash we received as Christmas gifts, and then seek out an after-Christmas sale to buy the PlayStation.
They’d get it after the holiday, but it would only be a few days later.
So Christmas morning came, and both boys came running down the stairs to see the small mountain of presents under our Christmas tree.
They began tearing through all of the presents, paper flying everywhere.
As each gift was opened, they’d comment “It’s clothes!”, and quickly toss the item aside.
This went on for a few excruciating minutes, before we had to burst their bubble.
“Hey guys, it’s ALL clothes. That’s all we could get for today. Your real gift is coming in a few days.”
Our older son responded with “That’s fine, I love the clothes. We didn’t really want anything else anyway.”
The rest of the gifts were opened without fanfare. We cleaned up all of the wrappings, and then prepared to go to my in-laws.
That story breaks my heart every time I think about it. And as I look back, I can see that each subsequent year resulted in us buying bigger and better gifts.
Are you a failure if you can’t provide a Merry Christmas to your young children? Probably not, but it sure felt that way.
Yes, there were things like Christmas Clubs and savings accounts available back then.
But if we could spare any money, it would’ve gone to food, or new sneakers, or that after-school babysitter we left hanging on so many occasions.
And how does this anecdote relate back to Black Friday? Well, as you can guess, we’ve used the opportunity to “shop till we dropped”, in the name of gift-giving.
Because we were never going to be in that position ever again. And as we started to make more and more money, as we progressed in our careers — well, all the more for us to spend, so we could provide for our family. To make up for the past.
Related Post: 9 Better Alternatives to Holiday Gift Giving
Black Friday Repercussions
I’m not trying to warn anyone away from shopping on Black Friday. In fact, I think it’s often the perfect time to find some real bargains, if approached in the right way.
In my personal case, it’s something I need to set limits on, and have a very defined plan for. While it’s not the root cause of our money issues, it’s definitely one of the catalysts.
And in the past two years or so, I’ve reigned in our shopping quite a bit. Especially now that I’m beginning to focus more on our financial well-being.
Do I think it’s wrong for someone in debt to participate in Black Friday? Heck no. I am not a judgmental person. I’d like to keep my glass house intact, thank you very much. No stones coming from this direction.
Only you can determine what’s right for you. Just be sure to weigh all sides of the equation — what you want to buy, and how that affects what you could’ve used that money for.
Did I buy anything on this past Black Friday? Well, yes, I actually did. Here is what I bought:
- a Kindle book – $2.99
- a small Christmas gift for my son’s girlfriend – $36
- an Ecovacs Deebot (cheaper version of Roomba) – on sale for $149, using $125 in Amazon gift cards I’d been accumulating from doing Surveys, scanning receipts, and contributing to Focus Groups
So while it wasn’t quite the “no spend” Black Friday one would expect of someone in my financial recovery process, I think it’s a step in the right direction.
We didn’t over-do it, and each item was fully thought out before making a purchase.
- Whatever holidays you celebrate, try to take the time to actually enjoy them
- Don’t let the holiday aftermath entice you into a false sense of shopping entitlement.
- Choose experiences, not things.
- If someone tells you not to pet their dog — DON’T touch the dog. Just. Don’t.
- Kids are not stupid. Socks wrapped up in shiny paper are still socks. Explain the situation to them, they’ll get it.
- Being broke doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Or a bad parent.
- You can participate in Black Friday events, by using common sense, and in moderation.
- Don’t forget those who may have less than you do. Because no matter how dire your situation, there’s always someone whose situation is way worse.
- Be grateful for what you have.
Well, that’s it — What do you think?
Did you go shopping on Black Friday, or Cyber Monday?
Do you have any holiday money stories to share?
Hit me up in the Comments!
Robin : )
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the insurance industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.