We all have stories that drive our behavior, our judgements and biases. As a financial planner and lifelong wonderer of what makes people tick, I am always fascinated by our money stories. What generates your money story? You name any experience you have had, and it plays a part. Our family and our childhood root most of our stories and we view and act through the lens of these stories.
During the holiday season, our money stories tend to shine even brighter. I like to call my money story, ‘Value over Dollars’. It’s not that I don’t like to spend money, it’s that there must be more value to the gift then there is money spent on it. Growing up as the 5th of 7 kids to a middle class family with a small business owner dad and a stay at home mom, money was not something that was abundant. However, every holiday was filled with abundance.
Santa always managed to bring the important gifts but the traditions and what made the holidays didn’t involve the dollars. Meals were prepared with love and of course the good dishes. My dad was all about the magic of the holiday. Buying and decorating the tree was a family event, with holiday music filling the home, all the while munching on delicious homemade Christmas cookies. Decorating the house was an event on its own. Almost every decoration had a meaning, even most tree ornaments had a story. As I look at our house and our tree now, it’s amazing how we just repeat our childhood in so many ways.
My mom would have us help her bake delicious treats for weeks before the holiday. We would bring Christmas cookies, breads and other desserts to at least a dozen family members and friends and also supplied the cookies for my dad’s huge family holiday party. While we were free laborers for the bulk of the baking, our deal for icing the sugar cookies was that we could eat one for every ten we iced.
As I grew older, my mom would share how they pulled it all together. My mom is a complete planner personality and her biggest superpower was efficiency. Of course, it’s not surprising that these are two of my biggest strengths. She would start to budget early in the year. She stocked up on all staples so that by the last quarter of the year her cash flow could go to holiday purchases. She would take a part time job at a store she could shop at and used layaway months before the holiday as mom and dad only kept a credit card for emergencies. She was always queen of the bargain, hunting for the best price.
My holiday money story comes from all of this. I am sure, as you read this, you are thinking of your holiday money story. If you think further, you will see this money story follows you throughout the year as well.
What is your holiday money story?
By Carolyn Humphrey, Founder EFS Strategies