Money Money Money

Money Money Money

Posted: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 8:02 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt

I hope you’ve enjoyed my recent experiment with answering reader questions. I have certainly enjoyed having help with the column ideas. After next week, I will go back to my old format, at least until the new year. But keep those questions coming as I’ll definitely need ideas for the long months of winter.
Dear Lisa,
I’d like to get your ideas on how to save money. With the holiday season coming, it’s especially important that I not go over my very limited budget.
Trying Not to Break the Bank

Dear Trying Not to Break the Bank,
Nobody loves Thanksgiving and Christmas more than I do, but I’m convinced those holidays were not designed to produce financial ruin for families. So when a woman on the shopping channel says that your Christmas won’t be complete without a silver-plated reindeer centerpiece and a Frosty the Snowman cashmere tablecloth, you’ve got to be prepared with the truth. When Cousin Clarence says your kids will feel left out at school if they don’t get a new cell phone or video game system, you need to understand how to respond.
The first tip to saving money is to have a CLEAR understanding of what money can and can’t buy. Money can buy technology, trips to Disney World, expensive food and jewelry. But money can’t buy a wonderful Christmas. I promise. If money could buy a wonderful Christmas, all rich people would have a wonderful Christmas. Trust me. They won’t. If money could buy a wonderful Christmas, all people who live below the poverty level would have a terrible Christmas. Trust me. They won’t.   
So here’s the deal. If you have children, shoot straight with them. Explain that you’re going to do the best you can with the money you have but you’re not going to spend money you don’t have. Children learn contentment by watching your ability to find your own contentment so be sure to keep your attitude positive. Don’t complain about the things you wish you had, the places you wish you could go or the life you wish you could lead. That’s immaturity. Be thankful for life and food and opportunity. Smile a lot. Live in the moment. Make cookies. Tell enjoyable stories. Check out Christmas books from the library. Play music that reminds you of the reason we celebrate.
One of the easiest ways to save money at Christmas is to cut out extra gift-giving. Write notes of appreciation or make candy or cookies instead of giving bought gifts. Save gift-giving money for children’s gifts. If you’re trying to tighten the budget and live within your means, stop eating out. One of our favorite meals is bean soup, rice and cornbread. Delicious. Nutritious. Economical. I care about the local economy as much as anyone but don’t go in debt to support the local economy. There are people with cash who can eat out or buy new clothes. Wear the clothes you already own. Decorate the tree with what you have. If you don’t have tree decorations, follow a long-held American tradition of making them. Colored construction paper isn’t expensive.
I know it’s still six weeks until Christmas but this is the time to make a plan, friend. If you want to bless your family with the best Christmas ever, spend more of your time than your money.
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For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website, lisasmartt.com.

Published in The Messenger 11.9.11

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