by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil

Have you had your spending reined in? Do you feel like you’re on a short leash, financially? Have you been unable to indulge in the little splurges for yourself or loved ones that you were used to? The economic climate overall is improving, but that doesn’t mean everyone is rebounding ~ in fact, for some people the sting of financial downturn is still fresh, whether it be from a lost job, a foreclosed house, a lifestyle downsize, or any one of a number of things.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, this recession hasn’t been all bad, as it’s taught many of us what’s truly important: we’re taking pleasure in the little things like eating meals together instead of going out, watching movies at home with friends instead of splurging on expensive outings, doing crafts with our kids instead of buying them the latest gadget, and so on.

But there’s nothing like the holidays to make you feel the pinch of a pinched penny. This time of year has ALWAYS been a hard one for much of American. People frequently go into debt to buy the perfect gift for themselves or a friend or family member. We throw caution to the wind and plan vacations home, eat meals out, host parties … and make things more stressful than they should be.

As many families are in the midst of needing to cut back, it’s even more of a necessity to live within your means this holiday season, but it’s likely to be even more tempting to overindulge. I call this a Pent Up Purchase. It’s related to a typical symptom of infidelity, the Pissed off Purchase, which I describe in my book Financial Infidelity, and can manifest itself in several ways:

Out of denial and anger, Americans have awakened to a new emotional response to the economic collapse. Our brain chemistry is negatively impacted when we suffer adversity. Because of this, the economic downturn we’re experiencing – and the penny pinching many are experiencing – is actually a set-up for irresponsible spending, and an unhealthy replacement for emotional intimacy.

So where does that leave us, as we stare the holiday season in the eyes? Make sure you’re taking advantage of the GOOD things we can learn from this recession, like I mentioned above. It may seem like a vicious cycle: more stress=more tendency to spend=more stress. But doing things to remove stress from your life WITHOUT spending money will help break the cycle! Spending time with your family – which is often at the core of a memorable holiday experience anyway, even after you strip away the gifts and festivities – can be a good place to start. Or if your family is a source of even MORE stress know your limits and boundaries.

Essentially, the advice that is always relevant during this time of year is even more pertinent now: Take time to rest, to enjoy the season, to be with the people that you love, and let the support of all these things carry you through the stresses you may be feeling about finances, money or the economy.


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