There was a time in my life when I absolutely hated the holiday season, and it was mainly because I worked nearly every weekend in December for six years straight.

I’m sure you are wondering why I would do such a thing, but I can assure you that I didn’t have a choice.   At my old mortuary job, we had grief events, holiday outings, and memorial get-togethers with a holiday theme.

Believe me when I say that it was not optional.

I dreaded the entire month for that reason, and normally couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over.  But that wasn’t the only reason I disliked the holidays.  The obvious reason I disliked them was because I always felt forced to spend so much money.

My New Outlook On Christmas

Things have changed since then.  Since I no longer work at the funeral home, I don’t have to spend the entire month of December at work.  And since I no longer work outside of the home, many of the spending triggers associated with the holidays have vanished.

It’s also much harder for outsiders to influence me when it comes to spending money on the holidays.  Years ago, I would have quickly caved to a request for a new and exciting gift exchange among family or friends.

But now?

Pssshhhhtttt…. Please.

I would just say “no.”  I’ve found that being direct and honest with the people who love you can do wonders for changing their expectations of you.  Most of the time.

Regardless, even though my outlook on the holidays is much better now, I still remember all of the pressures surrounding Christmas and the holidays- especially the pressure to spend.  And it all boils down to three different kinds of people and their various agendas:

Co-Workers

Once, at my old job, someone took up some money for flowers for Administrative Professional’s Day, and my husband was dumb  kind enough to contribute (we worked together at the time).  Of course, I was one of the recipients of said flowers and did not find it amusing.  In fact, I was like:

“So I bought my own f%&cking flowers?”

Simply put, I was not impressed.

But that kind of thing is typical of the workplace, isn’t it?  There’s always some co-worker who wants you to contribute to Betty Z’s dialysis or buy a tub of extra sharp cheddar from their kid’s school fundraiser.  Or they want to have a Christmas gift exchange- the worst kind being the “Sneaky Santa.”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Your Friends and Neighbors

It’s pretty customary to purchase a gift for anyone who has purchased one for your family, but what happens when it gets out of hand?  What do you do, for example, when one of your neighbors spends twelve hours knitting you a custom-made scarf that matches your car?  Or when casual acquaintances buy gifts for you, your husband, and your kids?

It’s awkward to say the least, especially if they weren’t on your Christmas shopping list to begin with.  And, even though sending a card is a nice gesture, not returning the favor tends to make people feel uncomfortable.

That’s why I’m glad so many of my friends and neighbors know that I write about frugality for a living.  They just assume I’m cheap as hell and won’t be buying them anything…and they’re right.  Problem solved!

Your Family Members

First of all, I feel incredibly thankful that my family (on both sides) is extremely reasonable when it comes to giving and receiving gifts around the holidays.  I never feel pressured to spend exorbitant sums on anyone, and we ditched the tradition of buying for siblings many years ago.

With that being said, I know so many people who are practically prisoners to their family’s holiday traditions and feel forced to spend more than can afford.  This is always sad for me to hear because I truly believe that the holidays should be about family and spending time together (and obviously faith if you are religious)- not buying a bunch of crap.

Keeping Your Christmas Budget in Check

The holidays can be tricky because some people take them far more seriously than others.  For example, a family member who is all gung-ho about the holidays might get extremely offended if you choose to opt out of one of the many gift exchanges.  Likewise, neighbors and friends all have their own set of expectations, and those expectations might include a gift from you.

I obviously don’t have all the answers, but I do believe that honesty is the best policy.  In other words, if you want to cut back on Christmas this year, say so.  And don’t let other people guilt you into spending money you don’t have or wasting your hard-earned cash.

You don’t want to buy your own flowers, do you?

Who sabotages your Christmas budget?  What are you going to do about it this year?