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Some years ago, I was talking with our pastor's wife about the lean years when they were first married and he was still in seminary. She commented, "That Christmas, so many of our friends were talking about getting new furniture or something else big like that, but I would have given anything just to have a new potato peeler!"
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just behind us (do I hear a collective sigh of relief?), you may be feeling overwhelmed with the "lightning deals" and "special steals" that were plastered absolutely everywhere. Maybe you were able to snag a few Christmas gifts at unbeatable prices. Perhaps you were even able to splurge on an item or two.
But maybe you're in a situation where all you want this Christmas is a new potato peeler.
I've been there, too.
So, what do you do when everyone around you seems to be talking about the new flat screen they hope to buy when you're simply trying to figure out how to pay this month's rent? There are three things we need to be doing (and one we shouldn't!) when finances are tight and the holidays approach.
Rejoice with those who rejoice
Even if you don't have money for a simple potato peeler, you can still be genuinely happy for those around you who have the means for something extra. Whether it's your neighbor's new car or your sister-in-law's gorgeous winter coat, take joy in celebrating their blessings with them. Be grateful that they have extra and aren't in a season of financial struggle at the moment.
If you're struggling with feelings of jealousy - and let's be honest, we've all been envious at one time or another - pray and give those feelings to the Lord. Be honest with Him about how you feel. Ask Him to replace those sinful thoughts with genuine joy and thanksgiving. And make a conscious decision to choose gratitude instead of grumbling.
Be thankful for what you already have
You may not have the money to replace your tired car yet, but most of us have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, and clothes to wear. When we're tempted to be frustrated over what we don't have, choose instead to be thankful for what you do. Especially here in the US, nearly all of us have great wealth compared to other countries. We can thank the Lord for all of His creative care for us.
If you're in a situation where you don't have a home or you have an empty refrigerator, you might need to dig a little deeper. You still have air to breathe and a loving Heavenly Father who knows your needs and who has promised to provide for you. Praise Him for His salvation. Get into the habit of being thankful no matter what.
One year for Christmas, I wanted to be able to give Jon something special. We really had no extra funds for splurges, so I got creative. I heard about a company that would buy gold jewelry and pay cash in return. Since I had a few childhood necklaces and bracelets I'd outgrown, I turned them in for a bit of spending money.
While not everyone has unused gold jewelry lying around, there are lots of other creative ways for accruing extra income. Ask a neighbor if you can mow his lawn or clean out his garage for payment. Offer to babysit your sister's kids. Look online to see if you can find some editing work. If you need more inspiration, I highly recommend The Complete Tightwad Gazette for ideas both on saving and earning money. Chances are good that you can find a copy in your local library.
Most of all, don't compare your situation with anyone else's. You may not know the back story behind what appears to be someone else's affluence. The neighbor with the new television? He may have just lost his wife to cancer and is trying to take his mind off of his severe loss. Maybe your sister-in-law would trade her nice wardrobe in a heartbeat if it meant she could have a child of her own.
That doesn't mean that everyone who appears to be well-to-do has a silent sorrow, but many times, they do. So don't compare your apples to someone else's oranges. It never ends well for anyone, ever.
Going through the holidays when you're financially hurting isn't fun. But by rejoicing with those who rejoice, being thankful for what you have, getting creative, and avoiding the comparison trap, you can still enjoy a wonderful celebration!