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  • Writer's pictureGary Grewal

Finding FI-Friendly Happiness During the Holidays

How do you celebrate the holidays? Do you go all out and decorate the minute Halloween is over like the Queen of Christmas, Mariah Carey? Or put a mini candy cane on the counter and call it good?

No matter how you celebrate, the holidays can either be a glorious annual tradition, or a bittersweet reminder of what once was.

For me, I fall into the playing-Christmas-songs-on-November-15th camp. I absolutely LOVE this time of year.

To be fair, I celebrate most holidays with gusto. I just love to celebrate! There is always a reason for celebration in life, whether it's a pool party for the 4th of July, or volunteering at a Thanksgiving dinner for needy members of the community while wearing a pumpkin pie hat.

Too often we get a day off from work for a holiday, but rarely stop to think what is the significance of having a day off or who sacrificed so we could have a day off.

I know I find myself guilty of this as well.

Another holiday? Woohoo!

Because sometimes just knowing the significance of the holiday and taking a pause to express gratitude, can lift our spirits alone.

For example, the 4th of July is a pretty straightforward one. The brave soldiers who fought hundreds of years ago so we could have our independence and become the United States of America, arguably the best and most powerful country on Earth.

Today you may never know it by the booze-filled party boats blasting music on the lake (but maybe in a way they are honoring those soldiers, by exercising their freedom and celebrating in their own way.)

Remember the person who planted the tree

All I'm really trying to say is even if you don't like to celebrate the holidays, there is a lot to be grateful for. Heck, just think of all those places that used to be open not only on Christmas even, but Christmas DAY! Who makes people work on Christmas Day!?

But even if you are one of those hardworking people at work in an essential role, whether at a hospital or utility company, hats off to you. Thank you for allowing so many to enjoy the holidays, knowing that if they got sick or the lights went out, someone was watching over us to make sure we'll be ok!

Now since we are talking about Christmas, I figured we should talk about what's become, in my opinion, a distant celebration of "the season of giving".

The last time I went Black Friday Shopping was in 2014. I used to love the thrill of waking up at 4 am to be inside a shopping mall at 5 am, it just seemed fun to me to be doing something crazy with my fellow caffeinated neighbors, and seemingly "naught" being in a store in the wee hours of the morning.

I actually got good deals in prior years, saving money on laptops, clothes, shoes, bedding, a toaster oven, and even getting a washer and dryer at 50% off! Yes, I was a personal finance nerd even in my youth.

Consumerism consumes the minds of Americans

Then in 2014, I saw a video of people camping, literally with tents, outside of a Best Buy, as well as a stampede of people shoving workers aside and trampling over their peers at a Walmart. I guess they thought no one would take "Door Buster" literally!

It couldn't be further detached from the true meaning of Christmas. Right after the day of giving thanks and expressing mindful appreciation for all we have, we mow down fellow human beings and fight over $10 jeans.

From that point on, I vowed to never support stores the day after Thanksgiving, or all of the holiday season for that matter. We don't do material gifts in our household anymore. This is one of the reasons I love REI, for their Opt Outside tradition, encouraging customers to appreciate the outdoors or make some time for nature rather than shopping for 9 hours straight.

After 2014, I became more of a conscious consumer, and eventually a minimalist.

"Oh I've always wanted that in Black!" click.

Back in AP Economics, I was fortunate enough to have an amazing teacher who taught us about all the tactics advertisers use to tap into our emotions and make us want to buy more stuff. Thankfully I now see that coming full circle and don't feel the need to exchange my time for products that don't enhance my life.

Think about it. Who waits to go into a store for 3 hours just to save $100 off of a TV? Do you really need a bigger TV?

What I've found, and what I hope you will find on your own, is all the talk about "experiences over things" really does matter. It really is MUCH better.

You're not a grinch if you go solo

If you're not from a family that has the means to throw elaborate holiday parties or are estranged from your family in one way or another (who hasn't been at some point in their life", then create your own holiday traditions.

Throwing an ugly sweater party, a hot chocolate station, a cookie exchange, or a visit to the local ice rink can be a merry holiday tradition that you look forward to each year, without breaking the bank.

If you're not feeling social, or would rather have some quiet time to yourself, consider a movie night (no shortage of sappy and predictable holiday movies) or collect your favorite recipes and make something different each weekend.

Create your own holiday fun!

Go on a holiday bike ride, cruising through various neighborhoods to check out the lights and decorations (I've done this and it's so much better than being in a car).

Volunteer at a Holiday Makers market that showcases small businesses that keep the money in the local economy.

There is so much to do that doesn't require money or much planning for that matter.

Think of all the people that put in that extra effort to make the holidays cheery for everyone else.

The workers who hang lights throughout the trees at the town square. The old couple who still paints their lawn decorations to bring joy to little ones. The holiday parade staffed by hundreds of volunteers to make bring the community together and spread some joy.

Happiness is yours for the taking this holiday season, even if you can't (or don't want to) open your wallet!


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