Spike the Kool-Aid/Financial Flippers/Christmas Without Debt

Christmas Without Debt

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Christmas Without Debt

Every holiday season, we all hear the same question: “What do you want for Christmas?”

(And not to worry ... for those who don't celebrate Christmas, there is still a lesson for you in this post.)

For some of you out there, you know exactly what it is that you want. But not me. I’m not one to easily commit to an answer. I like to sit around and debate it for a few years first. Now, I’m obviously kidding about taking years (or am I), but you get the point. I don’t make decisions quickly. And as my wife knows … I’m always working on it. (In my defense though, my wife bought the first wedding dress she tried on; granted, she looked absolutely perfect and I can’t imagine her having worn any other dress, but it’s hard to think of making a big decision like that as swiftly as she did.)

But something happened yesterday and it got me thinking: “what has Christmas really been like since paying off our debt?”

So I figured I’d share my experience with you.

I assume you’re thinking that if my wife and I have no debt then there must be absolutely no worries at all around the holidays. And I would like to say that that’s only partly true.

You see, when my wife and I paid off our debt, that meant that we eliminated over $2,100/mo in debt minimum payments. And that alone is life-changing.

So that part is true: when it comes to Christmas shopping, the actual dollar amount no longer worries us. And it’s not because we have an unlimited budget to spend on Christmas. It just means that we aren’t worried that there will be nothing to give anyone because we don’t have any money.

And real quick, I think it’s important to add that this post is not meant to shame anyone or make anyone feel judged. Our human hearts want to give. There are studies that have shown we get both mental and physical benefits from sharing with others. We are “biologically hard-wired to be generous.” And in general, people are happier when spending money on others (more than themselves). So when we are restricted from being able to do that, it hurts. And it makes us feel less-than.

But I promise you … you are not less-than.

According to Bankrate, nearly one in four people feel financially burdened by the holidays.

And according to US News Money, 75% of those living paycheck to paycheck worry about holiday expenses. And, get this, almost 18% say they’re still paying off credit card debt from last holiday season.

So I’ll say it again: if you are worried about finances around the holidays, you are not the only one.

Paying off our debt simply opened up more cash flow, which just means there are less mandatory payments we now need to make.

But one of the things we did with our newly-opened cash flow (and something I’d recommend you try as well) was we started saving incrementally for larger expenses, like Christmas. Instead of spending $600 all at once in December, we would allocate $50/mo to a “sinking fund” so that by the end of the year, we had money to spend for Christmas.

Okay … so being debt free means that we are no longer worried about finances around the holidays.

So then what’s changed?

Remember when I told you that something happened yesterday which spurred my inspiration for this post? Well, I made a quick decision about what to ask my parents for for Christmas. And I decided to ask for a Prone Cushion, which is a type of pillow you can use to properly support your body and align your spine when lying on your stomach. (I journal almost every night and choose to do so on our bed; so especially for longer entries, it can start to hurt my back and neck. This cushion would help with that.)

Anyway, I realized as soon as I decided what to ask for that my wife and I have experienced a shift in our relationship with money when it comes to how we perceive value vs. cost.

You see, when my wife and I finally got a handle on our money, we started switching the way we talked about money. We started flipping the way we thought about money. And we definitely experienced a change in how we felt about our money.

The pillow I asked for, while within the budget for my parents, was definitely more expensive than most would ever spend on a pillow (to the tune of almost $200 after taxes and shipping).

I mean, I could just imagine my dad thinking, “He wants a what for Christmas?! And it’s how much?!”

I’ll admit it was more than I would have been able to easily justify on a pillow. However, that’s why I asked for it to be my gift. It’s not that we never would have spent the money on the pillow. It just would have gone on a list of “wants” that my wife and I would have eventually evaluated whether it was worth the expense or not.

Because my wife and I basically buy what we want now.

We used to walk around thinking, “Must be nice,” when looking at someone’s lavish lifestyle, exorbitant travels, or overindulgent splurges. But now, after paying off our debt and going through the process of getting control over our finances, we talk about our dreams saying, “That’s going to be awesome.”

And so any item someone was to give us has less and less to do with the monetary aspect. On the flip side, it has more and more to do with the thought that’s behind the gift.

But before you start saying, “You buy what you want so you must just spend, spend, spend,” let me explain.

We don’t have unlimited funds. We keep a pretty strict budget when it comes to the holidays. And we try to do our best to find gifts which have a little more thoughtfulness behind them. It no longer matters what the cost is.

Think about it this way: the cost of something is simply what you pay for the product or service. The value is more about the item’s worth.

There’s a big difference.

And this is where the big shift happened for us after paying off our debt.

Money simply became a tool. We didn’t attach our hopes and dreams to it. We were no longer desiring things based on how much they cost. Instead, we looked at our life and saw the value a product or service would bring our lives.

Here’s an example…

My wife and I hire a cleaning company to come in and clean our home every three or four months. It comes out to around $250 for the entire house to be cleaned.

Now, I’m not saying that my wife and I don’t clean our home. But we don’t stress about deep-cleaning our home the way our parents did when we were growing up. Instead, we choose to hire a service to do that for us. There’s more value in the service they provide because it reduces stress around cleaning and ultimately gives us more time.

And having more time … THAT is valuable … much more valuable than a $250 gift card to a restaurant or Best Buy, despite them costing the same.

So investing money into things that give us value is a much healthier way to view how we spend money on gifts.

And this change in perspective has also ultimately influenced how my wife and I approach holiday spending. Instead of fixating on the price tag (or brand, for example), we prioritize the significance and usefulness of the gifts we choose. It’s not about spending recklessly. (Remember, we budget a limited amount of money for what we spend on each person.)

As someone now navigating their holiday season being debt-free, I’d like to share with you that the true gift does not lie in the dollar amount spent, but in the thoughtful consideration behind each present.

Let me say it like this: THE COST OF THE GIFT DOESN’T MATTER.

Before my wife and I got a handle on our finances, we would always spend “as much as we could” on gifts for people. Now, after understanding more about our money, we actually spend less on gifts.

As we move into this holiday season, consider reevaluating the way you perceive the value of gifts. Money, often seen and felt as a source of constraint, can become a tool for enhancing someone’s quality of life. Whether big or small, each thoughtful gift carries a unique value that extends far beyond its price.

We live in a world that often measures worth in dollars and cents; but I assure you that the true value of a gift lies in the consideration behind it. It's about the time spent understanding someone's needs, desires, and dreams. It's about choosing presents that enhance their lives, create lasting memories, and bring genuine happiness.

So, as you wrap each gift and share in the festivities, let the emphasis shift from financial constraints to the heartfelt intention behind the gesture. May your holiday season be filled with moments of connection, warmth, and the genuine appreciation of the meaningful gifts exchanged.

In other words, let’s try to remember the reason for the season.

Wishing you a holiday season abundant with joy, love, and the priceless value of thoughtful giving.

Stay Curious,



Kyle Fowler

Founder of Financial Flippers

The personal finance world is packed with TONS of information. And while it's not all bad, it's not all good. I work hard to make sure I am sharing helpful content that keeps you on track while still providing different perspectives. If you ever have questions, want to share ideas for other topics, or want to know more, shoot me an email: kyle@financialflippers.com

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