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Surviving a cash flow Christmas

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, at least a few would describe it as a stressful time of year, and it’s no wonder.

The Christmas season comes with increased personal and financial demands; from scrambling to secure the toy of the year for children, to finding time to complete shopping, baking, and decorating, attend Christmas concerts, banquets and holiday parties; not to mention the financial burden attached to many of those commitments.

An option to consider if you’re feeling stressed over Christmas commitments is to make a conscious shift away from being a consumer, and move toward becoming an investor, in the form of spending time, not money.

A conversation I had with a friend and co-worker earlier this week about gift giving got me thinking about this shift, and how we’ve come to associate so strongly with Christmas and the feeling of not being enough.

The topic of conversation was Fingerlings; an "in" toy for children this year.

At 32 years old and childless, I’m as far out of touch with children’s toys as I've ever been, but an explanation from my co-worker and a Google search revealed that Fingerlings are a plastic, robotic figurine that you wear on your finger.

The tiny plastic robots are manufactured in China, they retail for about $20 Canadian, and most Canadian suppliers are sold out.

My question is what is this toy really offering a child, and why do we want them so badly? The answer is rooted somewhere in the fact that our lives have become increasingly commercialized; in fact our lives are now designed around commercialization, and we have become slaves to planned obsolescence.

My suggestion to people who are stressed over Christmas, is to try using creativity instead of credit cards. That may sound arduous, and maybe some of you are thinking you’re not the creative type, and I’m going to straight up challenge that train of thought with a simple example: the Christmas tree.

The act of putting up a Christmas tree is a tradition, its one that strengthens the connection between people, is an opportunity to be fun, creative, expressive, and reminiscent, and most of you have been doing it your entire lives.

Here are some ideas (by no means exhaustive) to help you shift from being a consumer to an investor:


Volunteering teaches you, provides you the opportunity to lead, strengthens who you are as a person, strengthens the community you live in, and will always offer more than you have to give.

There is no limit to the things you can do when it comes to volunteering (but in case you need some suggestions: contact a Senior's Care Facility, Lions Club, foodbank, animal shelter, Rotary Club, or simply your neighbour).

There is no limit to the places you can invest your time as a volunteer, it's really about what you enjoy doing, and who is willing to do those things with you. Seniors in care homes especially need you to visit. They do not have the option of independently visiting people. Go see them. Most recreation groups within care centres, if you contact them, would find a way to fit you in.

 Host a baking exchange

A baking exchange (or craft exchange) involves a time component, creativity, and yes, even a little bit of love. Baking is a tradition you can really explore with many levels of creativity coming into play, and if you have a group of friends, or you’re looking to make new connections, you can add the exchange element as an excuse to get together.

 Organize a game night.

The aspect of organized play is fading, and it’s something you’d be pleasantly surprised to find returns quite easily, if given the opportunity.

Organizing a game night event will require a bit of ingenuity and planning, a host location, communal food, and a willingness to participate. It’s a sure means to have a group of friends engaged, laughing, and completely free from phones and distractions for an evening.

 Get outdoors, get active.

Go on a bird count outing, try beach combing, visit a rink, borrow winter sport equipment, try your hand at night sky viewing; all offer opportunities to spend time together, outdoors, actively, and most of them come in at a low price point. If you need some direction on this one, or wonder what I mean by ‘borrow winter sport equipment’, contact the active living coordinator within your community, they’re helpful resources, and they welcome all levels of participation.

The shift from being a consumer to an investor is going to take time, and I'm going to throw a big C word into the mix, it will involve change.

So, if investing time is something you want to do more of, talk to your people, tell them what you're thinking, and how you want to focus your efforts, make a plan, try it, adapt, try again.

Share with your people what worked, and what didn't, and why, and then next year, try it again, or try something new, don't give up so quickly, because you might find something you really enjoy, or it may even open up an avenue for something you hadn't imagined even existed.


Gloria McPhee is a member of the Springhill Amherst and Region Community Health Board.

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