How am I Getting Through the Holidays This Year?

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How am I Getting Through the Holidays This Year?

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Christmas has been a challenge for us the last few years.

Last year a fellow blogger issued a challenge about stocking stuffers that really helped our budget. My original idea for this blog was to build on what I learned from that experience and to focus on strategies for getting the best deals and evaluating what you are thinking about buying. 

Every time I sat down to write that blog I got stuck because that blog no longer applies to us this year.

I would love to be in a position to write that, but Dr. Phil's phrase chases itself around inside my head: "It is math, not magic."

It has been a tough year for us financially. I have been worried about Christmas shopping for months. It has just been this huge cloud over my head. It has always been a challenge, but this year is the worst.

With all the medical bills we have right now, we are struggling and scraping for our groceries.

We received a small settlement for an issue we had. We used that money to pay off a few bills, put a little in savings, and pay for our daughter's 16th birthday gifts. When we ordered her gifts we also ordered her Christmas gifts. I knew we would be tight for Christmas so I took advantage of a sale and shipping deal, as well as our extra income to get a jump on the season.

That sums up the plus side of the situation.

We thought we could add a little to that savings each payday because of the bills we paid off with the settlement.

We planned to shop early and shop smart.

We thought this would spread out the extra spending and make it a little less stressful.

We thought we could manage. 

Then my son fell 15 feet off a cliff while hiking and badly broke his arm and had to have surgery.

He is fine and that is the most important thing. We are very clear that it could have been much worse. That does not change the fact that the money in savings is gone, we have a flood of medical bills coming in, and Christmas is still coming

Right now we are just taking things one day at a time.

The problem I have with that is that I know that Christmas gets one day closer every day.

We have a list of holiday gifts we feel are really important and are working on figuring out how to make them happen. We have asked for agreements of no gifts with extended family. I am sure we will get through this but this is trying even my absurdly optimistic attitude. 

I am determined to keep the POINT of the holidays firmly in my focus. 

We have always said the holidays are about family and friends, not gifts. We have always talked the talk.

Well, if we want to be good role models for our kids, we better show up and walk the walk this year. 

They are good kids. They know they are loved and treasured. They understand our situation and I know it will be fine.

I just cannot see the path that ends up at fine yet. I am still looking for it.

Anyone have any ideas?

Kimberly Davis, Debt Management Plan customer with leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Kimberly Davis

I have been married for 15 years and we have two kids. We have had a rough few years; between my Mom's having to come and live with us to my husband's lay off.  We are very eager to get our finances under control with the CareOne Debt Management Plan because our kids have BIG college plans. We have plans too and they include traveling with our trailer and being able to retire at some point, so this debt just has to go!  I live in California with my family and am  focused on making real changes so that we can get started on a fun debt-free future.You many know me in the Community Forums as Kimmer5000 and I am now a compensated blogger for CareOne!  Check out my blog, A Straight Talk on Debt.

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  • I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you had to "walk the walk" with regards to Christmas being about family and friends - not gifts. I'm very sorry about the struggles you've been through. Your son's medical emergency happening right at that time must have been so rattling to you. It is a blessing that he is doing well, but you're right : It doesn't erase the financial strain of it all. I'm particularly sorry to learn that you are feeling so stressed about Christmas. I don't know where you stand with regards to faith, but the baby who was born on Christmas morning all those years ago grew up to be a man who would only want to give you comfort in your distress, to encourage you through your time of financial pressure, and to lighten the burden you feel about the holidays. So I encourage you to walk that walk. I encourage you to let go of the expectations that are holding you hostage. I encourage you to handle Christmas with completely realistic choices based on where you are right now. And I wish you the best Christmas ever!

  • I'm really sorry that you are going through such a rough time right now, Kimberly.  I remember the first Christmas we were enrolled in the DMP....not much money, and no lines of credit to supplement our spending.  Prudence has it exactly right -> one of the things that we have to do while paying off debt is to bring our expectations in line with reality.  I KNOW it isn't pretty (I really want to use stronger language but I'll get censored so I'll refrain) but I can tell you this from experience - your kids will look back on this Christmas and not remember it because they didn't get as much in the way of gifts, but they'll remember it for being the year their parents got their financial act together.  I LOVE the phrase that Prudence uses in that your expectations are holding you hostage.

    I don't normally do this....but I have been reading Prudence's blog for a little while now, and I really recommend it to readers here in the Community who are sharing struggles with debt and their finances.  She is 100% real in her writings - many times I feel like I've lived her exact experiences.  Click on her name and check it out - you won't be disappointed.

  • Prudence - Thank you so much for the encouragement! I really love the phrase that my expectations are holding me hostage. I so agree! I do need to let them go. I have been really trying to focus on what is really important. Having been to the funeral of my son's best friend this year it is so clear to me what a blessing it is that he is ok. Any fall over 6 feet puts you in internal injury range and over 10 could result in mortal injuries. He only broke his arm badly and needed stitches in his chin. He was knocked completely out. He could have ended up with brain damage or been killed. Standing by my best friend as she drowns in the pain of the loss of her son makes it so clear to me what we were spared in so many ways. My head is on straight and I am thankful. I am blessed. Yes, we have to live within our means this year and our means are tight but this will be her first Christmas without her 12 year old son. My son's first Christmas without his best friend. We have our kids safe and healthy. That is all I want for Christmas. Never for one moment do I forget that I am blessed and so very lucky.

  • Travis - Thanks for reading and for the encouragement! That phrase jumped out at me too. Thanks for the heads up on the blog. I will give it a look.  I know things will be ok. I just do not see the path to ok yet. I am trying to be still and wait for the path to be shown to me. I just keep reminding myself that in just 18 months we will have our signature loan paid off and 6 months after that Daryl's car loan is paid off. The following 6 months has the end of every other loan we have that are not on the DMP except for school loans and even those are cut in half. 6 months following that our DMP is finished. There is a finish line. We get closer every month. We just need to hold the line.

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  • Kimberly -  Once again, I feel like I could be reading about myself when reading your blogs...  I feel the same way about Christmas this year - it's my first Christmas on the plan and I've been very stressed out about it.  Although the advice is well-meaning, you still have kids that you need to buy presents for and you have to make it happen (even if it means pushing back a few bills to my next payday, in my case).

    It looks like you're good for your daughter's gifts already - that's wonderful that you were able to accomplish that.  For your son, maybe you can find something that he wants that is used.  We're buying my son a used Ipod at Gamestop on Black Friday because it's on sale cheaper than people are selling them on Craigslist.  As long as it's new to my son, he won't care that it's been used by someone else.  Used game stores may have a new game or item that he wants and you can get a great deal on it.

    For me, the kids are all that really matter at Christmas.  To cut down on the gift buying, we don't buy for all of our sisters and brothers or neices or nephews - we do a gift exchange instead.  Our kids will buy one present for whoever's name they drew - with a $10 limit.  For us adults, we drew couple names (my husband and I have my one sister and her husband).  We also put a new spin on it that the gift has to be bought from a thrift store or yard sale or somewhere used.  We'll see how it goes.

    For the grandparents, we always get them a gift that incorporates a picture of my kids.  (One year it was coasters with their pictures on it, one year it was a picture cube).  This is something that we can get cheaply but since it has their current pictures, it makes it something they'll want and display.

    Finally, for the kids teachers, ballet instructors, coaches, etc., we'll be baking something.  My 11 year old daughter loves to bake and is very creative.  We may be making snowman cakepops or some kind of cookies...

    I will be going shopping on Black Friday (OK, on Thanksgiving) in order to purchase the doorbusters.  The prices are just so good that it's really the only way I can even afford to buy gifts for my kids and the kids gift exchange.  I'm not going to be able to buy as much as I did in the past, but I'm working on my spreadsheet and will plan the shopping very carefully.  We'll buy what we will need for gifts and that's it.

    Finally, life always throws a curveball right when we think we're doing OK...  My husband was laid off this week - a month before we expected it.  Although he'll get unemployment, that still leaves me short over $1000 for this month.  That's a huge hurdle that I have to figure out how to overcome in the next few weeks in order to still make my first fiscally responsible Christmas come true...

    You'll get through this and so will I.  It looks like an impossible situation, but with careful planning and creative shopping, you'll be able to accomplish it!

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