Haunted by the Holidays (Financially)


I remember growing up in a family where the holidays offered mixed emotions. I enjoyed serving in my father’s church singing Christmas songs like, “Jesus, What a Wonderful Child”.

Yet, at the same time often we were housing families in our home who were homeless themselves or caring for members of my father’s church who were unemployed, so a Christmas tree with many gifts under the tree was not always a reality in our home. We always made it about Jesus but as a kid, honestly sometimes I wanted it to be about us.

As I grew older and began to matriculate through high school, college and into adulthood, I realized how challenging it was for me to consistently save throughout the year for Christmas so every year it seemed I was stressed to find ways to make up for the money I did not have for gifts. I also realized that giving gifts during Christmas is not just about our family but it’s also about giving to Jesus through his church. My former church used to have a “Birthday Party for Jesus” and they would make sure that we focused on Jesus’ birthday as a day to give something to him as compared to as a way to get something just for us. (My birthday being December 20 always makes it challenging to separate the two)

I am not opposed to buying gifts for family and friends but in the end, we should follow three key principles to keep us from being haunted by the holidays:



So many people “rob Peter and Paul” so to speak to purchase gifts for people even beyond their family that may or may not be that interested in them in the first place. If you don’t have the money in the bank, get creative, write a poem, make a video on your phone or craft something from the craft section at the local craft store like Hobby Lobby. 

My first Christmas during my dating relationship with my wife, I had little money due to being a college student whose income was based on working a part-time job making $7.00 an hour along with scholarships and school loans. I prayed and asked for a way to bless April with my gifts and low and behold God gave me the vision to create a “LIFE Magazine” about the beginning of our relationship which began that August 2, 1999 at 11:37pm CST. (Brothers remember dates, they often matter to your lady).

This magazine shared our journey from miniature golfing, watching movies, going to water parks and meaningful times we spent at church. When April saw this gift, she was blown away by the thoughtfulness and creativity. I didn’t have my own computer or fancy graphic design software, I just had a desire to show love to my girlfriend while living within my means.

I could have taken one of those free credit cards that they offer on campus for a “free T-shirt” but I would have been haunted by the holidays for years to come with debt plus interest that were not worth the gift I would have purchased.

This magazine will serve as foundation for sharing our story with our daughter as she gets older.


this_christmas02I have heard so many people in the mall talking to friends, family and even mall employees about how much the recipient will love the gift and therefore love them. Husbands are in jewelry stores taking out credit to buy a gift their wife will love but that won’t make their wife love them. Parents are in toy stores spending the grocery budget on toys that the child will love but will not make the child love them. (In fact the child probably wants to play with the box instead of the gift, at least this is what I’ve found early on). Remember that your relationships are more important than the report your family, friends or co-workers may have about your gift.

When we buy with the report in mind, we’re buying for us as the giver instead of them as a recipient.


Many of us will receive one to two days off work for Christmas while others will receive one or two weeks. It is so easy to spend our time meeting with friends, traveling to see family (locally or nationally), or staying up all night to get deals on Black Friday. These are all important options to consider but most importantly remember to schedule some rest and recreation. I have an entire series of sermons I have developed on Sabbath resting and how important it is for us to work hard but then rest well.

God in his creation of the world “worked hard” to create a world that would have a sun which would be the just the right distance from the earth to keep us from freezing or burning up. He “worked hard” to create landmass to live on and water to hydrate our bodies. But even He in all his power, might and strength chose to spend the seventh day of the week resting (See Genesis 2:1-3). (I put the term “worked hard” in quotes because working hard for God is not hard but you get the point.) 

God’s model of resting one day a week was designed to keep us from believing we have to do everything everyday or that we have to do it all right now. His model also gave us a weekly opportunity to “JUST SAY NO” to being productive.

golf ball sunsetOn my Sabbath I spend time doing a number of things that I’ll share in a later blog but one of them is to recreate or “re-create”. I find time to do something that fills my tank and helps me feel energized for the week. God uses things like conversations with friends and rounds of golf to refill my tank for the work I’m call to do in the coming week. When we recreate our bodies releases hormones and chemicals in our brains like serotonin and dopamine that cause us to feel whole, healthy, and happy for our future. So don’t forget to recreate during the holidays.

Always remember:

  1. Never Spend What You Don’t Have (Be Creative!)
  2. Relationships Are More Important than Reports
  3. Recreation Is A Part of His Creation

If you put these principles into practice, you will not have to be haunted by the holidays! Next week I will share some insights on how to deal with the emotional challenges of the holidays in Haunted by the Holidays (Emotionally)

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