Who doesn’t love a good scary movie? Trailers for classic horror always seem to be splashed over social media. My personal favourite is Alien (1979) because the monster is just so nasty. One personal horror show, with a particularly nasty monster you will probably be freaked out by is the credit card bill from Christmas and the so-called holiday ‘sales’.
The monster that inevitably appears in that particular movie is financial stress.
Chances are you will try to avoid the gory details when your bills land, because the debts are often in the thousands. So few of us experience calm when faced with the scary reality of financial stress. It’s likely Christmas got a bit impulsive and we bought a few extra gifts, food and alcohol in the mad rush to try and guarantee a happy holiday for family, friends and ourselves, especially after the year 2020 has been.
That pressure can flick a switch in our brains where we go into a kind of ‘trance’, handing over our credit cards on auto-pilot to suppress that creeping feeling we really shouldn’t be spending so much. But it’s the holidays and we are supposed to relax.
What happens at this time of year?
Roy Morgan’s annual Christmas retail sales forecasts conducted in conjunction with the Australian Retailers Association indicate Australians will spend more than $54.3 billion across retail stores during the Christmas trading period.
In December 2019, ING Australia found $400 million worth of unwanted presents were gifted last year and $10 million unwanted gifts were received.
The end result? The emotional burden of guilt and fear that comes with increasing debts. More than half of Australians identify personal finance issues as the leading cause of stress, according to the Australian Psychological Society.
So maybe, just to deal with the stress of it all, we buy ourselves a few treats. Who hasn’t tried to make life a bit more bearable with some ‘retail therapy’? In trying to make a situation feel better we can just make it worse. Ultimately it all seems like relatively normal human fallibility, but few would argue we abandon earlier good intentions to only buy what we need to. It almost feels Grinch-like to penny pinch at Christmas, so we blow our budget – and it’s probably not the first time. The unsettling feelings we get from living beyond our means spill over to our work lives too.
According to the latest Financial Mindfulness Financial Stress Index report (September 2020), an estimated 2.29 million Australians are experiencing levels of financial stress that reduce their wellbeing and capacity to function. This translates to lost productivity for businesses, estimated to be worth $32.14 billion per year.
Is there a way to embrace this time of year, at the same time as not over doing it?
What if we could get through the holidays not regretting our spending, not dreading the bloated repayments to come? What if at the same time we could still make ourselves and our loved ones happy, maybe even happier than usual? Then we could show up at work without that nagging sense of fear that comes from surviving with financial stress. Sound like a fairy tale? It doesn’t have to be.
One answer lies in applying the principles of mindfulness.
According to Dr Suzanne Westbrook, MD, “Mindfulness teaches you the skill of paying attention to the present by noticing when your mind wanders off. Come back to your breath. It’s a place where we can rest and settle our minds.”
“Of the myriad offerings aimed at fighting stress, from exercise to yoga to meditation, mindfulness meditation has become the hottest commodity in the wellness universe,” said Liz Mineo in The Harvard Gazette.
Applying mindfulness to our finances will help us make better decisions around our money that we won’t regret later. What a great time to implement this proven practise in your own life for the festive season and become financially mindful.
In the process we can stay within our means and feel better about ourselves by saying goodbye to the annual horror movie of unwanted debt, and leave the terror where it belongs – on our screens.
Also published on LinkedIn.
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