I remember my first Christmas after college. I’d graduated with an engineering degree and had my first job with a salary. I wanted badly to give everyone in my family the things they wanted for Christmas. I might as well have put a red nose on my car because I rolled in for Christmas with it packed out like Santa’s sleigh.
I couldn’t wait to see the looks on my nephew’s faces when they opened their gifts and saw the toys from the TV commercials. I knew my sisters would be shocked when they saw that the clothes I got them were trendy, name brand and their size. I was excited to be able to give back to my parents who had done so much for me. That day I felt like I won at Christmas. I had given the perfect gifts.
While I felt on top of the world on the 25th, I woke up on the 26th with a bit of a Christmas hangover. It wasn’t the egg nog or the punch though, it was a feeling that while I had done Christmas as well as I could, there had to be more to it. I felt like while I hit the mark with every gift I gave, maybe I was aiming at the wrong target.
That started a journey of figuring out what really mattered in celebrating Christmas, then aligning how I use my resources: time, money, energy, and attention, with those priorities.
Over-spending has become as much of a Christmas tradition as Santa and cookies. Yes, this can mean spending too much money on gifts, but it also means spending too much time rushing from party to party and store to store. It can mean exhausting ourselves without knowing why and worrying too much about things that are out of our control.
Consider giving yourself a gift this year: spending less.
Spending less means choosing intentionally where to spend the limited resources we have. It’s spending finances on meaningful gifts for special people, but with restraint. It’s spending time with those who mean the most to us and celebrating in ways that have significance. It’s spending energy where needed and finding time and space to rest. It means making our life a gift by being fully present with those around us.
Spending less also makes space in our lives to do something meaningful with the resources we haven’t spent: investing more. Investing takes what we have, converts it into another form and gives an increased return. While some tout the year-over-year return of money invested into the stock market, the best investments I’ve ever made are into people. Time invested into our own health: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual gives a compounding return. Attention given to a student through mentoring gives a return in both of your lives. Money invested into empowering others gives returns both tangible and intangible. Energy invested into serving our communities makes all of our lives better.
About the Author – Daniel “D” Smith is a Student Pastor at Eastwind Community Church in Boise, ID.