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During the holiday season there is always the temptation to spend more than we have and plunge right into debt. Studies show that gift giving is an important part of human interaction helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds between friends and family. I was surprised to learn that it was the “giver” and not the “receiver” that reaped the most psychological gains and rewards. Now before you get happy and begin to justify your holiday shopping sprees, slow down. This holiday season I want to encourage you to spend wisely while you are shopping for family and friends and not blow your savings or get in debt.

According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation 65% of the respondents state that the economic climate will impact their holiday plans.  The majority of the respondents even stated they are adjusting and will be spend less. I would encourage you to make some adjustments in your holiday spending and plan for “a debt free” holiday.

If you are choosing to shop this holiday season I recommend that you take the following steps:

1.  Create a plan and budget.  Make a list of the family and friends and how much you have available to spend. This is important because a budget will help you keep on track and tell you how much you can spend.

2.  Spend below or within your means. In other words, if you do not have it do not spend it. Your budget should include all expenses (gifts, parties, travel (hotel, gas, rental car, gifts, gift wrapping etc.) that you will acquire from Thanksgiving until December 31st.

3.  Protect your identity. If you spend cash you are less inclined to spend all your money and you will be more reserved. Try not to use your credit card or ATM card. If you have to make sure that you cover the key pad when punching in your password or avoid going to ATM machines are night or at locations that will leave you vulnerable.

4.  Shop for sales, use coupons and hunt for the best deals.

5.  Buy practical gifts and things that people will use.

6.  Buy a joint gifts for family members and kids.

7.  Make a gift (think Martha Stewart!).

8.  Buy a gift card. It does not have to be a large amount. It is the thought that counts and it will keep you on track with your budget.

9.  Host a regift party. My wife has a Ph.D. in regifting.  She may not want the picture frame, but she know it would look great in your living room.

I hope you find the above helpful and put it into action. This holiday season will be different for many people including ourselves. It is not longer business as usual. Remember that Jesus is the reason for the season and it will not cost you money to just spend time with your loved ones.   Remember the holiday season happen once a year and it should not be a time to just shop but a time for you to spend time and make memories with your family and friends.

Luke: 12:34 (NIV) : Where your treasure is, your heart will be there also.

The tenants of stewardship living challenge you to be responsible with the time, talent and treasure that God has entrusted in your care.  This holiday season I am going to spend time connecting with you regarding your treasure.

When we think of treasure we most often think of a concentration of riches that was lost or forgotten until rediscovered, like buried jewels and big gold coins. For the sake of this blog let define treasure as something of immense value that you have in your current possession or sphere of influence, like your material wealth (finances, car, clothes, jewelry etc) and your relationship like your friends, family and neighbors.  For the next couple of weeks we will be examining your treasure through the lens of the holiday season.

It is my desire that you are inspired to be good steward over these three areas of your life: Time, Talent, Treasure. Time, you must learn to manage your time; talent you have skills and gifts and lastly treasure, your finances need to managed appropriately. All of these areas work together, when they are managed properly you will be able to become A BETTER YOU!

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