What Is “Enough?” Futile Attempts To Get Through The Holiday Season On A Budget

November 13, 2012


I realize that even trying to talk about what is “enough” in an American context is much like trying to make a healthy meal out of jello-  lots of mass, not enough substance.  There’s a lot of fluff in the discussion of consumerism and evaluation of the modern American Dream, but as a young-ish college graduate who is weighing options for employment as it nears closer and closer to the holiday season, I find myself pondering what 2013 will hold and what I’ll need to have, earn, consume and give to feel like I have “enough.”


Every job you could possibly have has it’s plusses and trade offs.  In America, it seems that you either have wealth or you have freedom, but unless you’re some uber-successful jerk featured on the cover of Forbes, you rarely have both.  Right now, I work for myself as a blogger & freelance social media consultant.  I have freedom, but I don’t make as much money as some of my counterparts that do similar work for one big client (AKA they’re employed to one big corporation) with a sizable budget.

I absolutely love the freedom (especially as I search for the right “next step”) , but I have found that I haven’t budgeted in extra money for the holidays and I’m wondering how much stress I should be in right now.

Living simply and within your means seems do-able until the holidays approach.  It doesn’t matter how much money we make, whether we’re going from paycheck to paycheck or living with a bountiful budget, none of that seems to matter when it’s time to go Christmas shopping.  Pair this with the fact that now is the time I have to book my 2013 expenses, travel & conferences and I’m scratching my head on how amazingly fast all this “live simple, live free” stuff has gone to the wayside in the face of consumerism.

Many of you know I’m looking to transition into a day job that incorporates my love of blogging, social media and entrepreneurialism, but for now, as I find that perfect fit of a job, I’m happy blogging, freelancing and traveling.  I make enough money to cover my expenses, my love for racing, healthy food, donating to charities and pay my bills- but I didn’t really make an extra $700+ this month to cover what will surely be a stressful event of gift shopping & holiday travel.


Many of us young-guns are tight-roping it between entrepreneurialism and the pressures of convention.  I find myself constantly stratling between the desire to live free and fast and the need to settle down and shop at Crate and Barrel like the rest of (perceived) America.  I’m currently applying for jobs to add some stability to my paycheck and save for the future,  but what the hell am I saving for?

What will really make our generation happy & fulfilled?  Will the security of a steady paycheck make me feel free and protected or totally enclosed in the yearly cycle of consumerism… (A.K.A. the message that if you have the money, you should spend it on a new car, a nice wedding, your first home, etc.)

Truth is, I feel pretty happy even in a time of transition without out a lot of extra money to cover the “necessary” expenses (like holidays, weddings, get togethers & fancy stuff) but the pressure to be, have, do, and get “more,” seems to mount to a loud roar during the holidays…how to cope?

Consumerism can be a fun ride, but it also feels like a total trap.  As soon as I’ve purchased the jacket I’ve been gushing over for months and months, the gratification is gone after a short-lived high, only to be replaced by another item to lust over.  We build, we acquire, we achieve- the better we do, the more we expect of ourselves.  The low-ticket satisfaction of our youth is replaced by the trap of successful living, as we compete with a moving target of growing income and lowered satisfaction.

I guess, as I sit here in a coffee shop, doing my work and pondering on life- I wonder, like most of do after we hit 25- what the right next step is… to find joy in the freedom I have now, though the living is uncertain, or to batten the hatches and apply myself in the 9-5 so I can keep up with the Joneses.  Perhaps in 2012 I read too many memoirs on artists & too many blogs, but as the holidays approach and I know that fiscal reality and expectation are in stiff competition.

When my grandmother was a child, her group of siblings rejoiced over receiving and apple and and orange for Christmas, but granted, that was even better than most kids got during that time.  Now that the standard of living has risen for some, we find ourselves oddly unfulfilled since we always feel we’re a few steps behind our richer, thinner & happier looking peers.  We are less happy with a $1,300 Apple MacBook Pro under the tree than some of our family members were with an actual apple in their stocking.  I wonder where I stand in all of this, and what price I’ll pay for the consumerisin 2013.


So is anyone else thinking about consumerism as we get into the holidays and plan for 2013?

How are you managing costs this holiday season?


18 comments so far.

18 responses to “What Is “Enough?” Futile Attempts To Get Through The Holiday Season On A Budget”

  1. I absolutely LOVED everything about this post. Consumerism is a crappy cycle, but there’s no denying that spending some of your hard-earned money on a quality product that you really want (or really want to give as a gift) and have fully researched is a fun experience. Then again – maybe that’s the key word; this holiday, most of my presents will be *experiences*. A few things to unwrap, sure, but mostly events or things we can do together to touch on what we love.

    • Shannyn says:

      I love the idea of giving experiences. I know “coupon books” sound cliche… but I would totally be down if anyone in my family offered to wash my car, do my taxes or have a girl’s night out instead of just buying whatever first thing they find on sale on Black Friday! haha

      I’ll take experiences or favors… lol.

  2. I am like awful with budgeting! I don’t know why I cant do it haha. I try and try. Reading articles that tell you what you should have saved by time time you are in your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s… it is just crazy! Obviously I need to start saving!

    • Shannyn says:

      I find that my biggest grief with budgeting is that I never seem to anticipate the extra expenses… I can account for the standards but there’s always stuff I didnt’ see coming, like an opportunity to travel somewhere or a conference where the ticket goes on sale almost a year in advance, I just don’t think that far ahead.

      Now that I run, trying to plan my budget around races is impossible since I never seem to know what races are coming up and when since I’m still discovering this crazy world of 10ks and half marathons!

  3. I think the best thing is to just take a step back and know it’s about spending times with friends and family. Don’t too much pressure on yourself. People will understand!

  4. I just went through a rough break-up, and the rent, deposit and stuff for the move decimated all the money I saved for the holidays, and I really don’t want to dip even further into my “emergency savings” to make up the difference. I also do not know what I am going to do about the holidays-cross my fingers and hope someone sponsors a post or two between now and then?

    Love the thoughts you gave a voice to in this post!

    • Shannyn says:

      Thanks so much, I feel you! I dedicated much of my emergency fund (maybe stupidly so) to paying down my student loans from grad school since while I know that an emergency with no savings would be 18% on a credit card, but paying 6.8% month after month FOR SURE was not really an option either… esp. since a savings account only makes about 2% in interest a month….so it only seemed smarter to pay off the debt, deplete my funds and take a chance on the next few months.. good news, my loans are done now though! woo!

  5. Sometimes I wish we could agree to not give each other presents. Honestly, I feel like people put so much emphasis on gifts over Christmas, when time should really be the present.
    Don’t get me wrong I love giving gifts, but sometimes I feel like I give gifts that are not really needed.
    My friends and I don’t give each other Christmas or birthday presents. We just hang out on special holidays. Is that bad? I don’t think so. It gives us an excuse to get together. Plus, sometimes we are all too broke from paying off all our bills and other items, we don’t have money to buy a fancy dinner.

    • Shannyn says:

      I totally feel you- there are a few people I would like to exchange gifts with, but then it feels like we’re just spending money for others on generic, obligatory gifts.

      I really should have planned ahead this year, but it wasn’t like I had a lot of extra money to work with after paying off student loans, irregular client work with my business and expenses with the move… but still, I’ll make the best of it and try not to lose my sanity! 🙂

  6. Tara says:

    WOW! I adore your blog! It’s so pretty and so well written!!! I am popping in for the first time from the Girls Gone Sporty Facebook page! Needless to say I have subscribed to your posts!

    Cheers and happy blogging!

    • Shannyn says:

      Aww, thank you so much Tara! Sometimes my guy friends give me grief about the design, but I tell them it’s very girly and those of us that get it, truly appreciate it! 🙂

      I’m a new Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador so it’s so great to meet others from the page! Welcome and thanks for the kind words!

  7. Lisa says:

    Thank you for your post. We are often caught up in giving and receiving that we loose sight of what matters during the holidays- spending time with your loved ones. Pinterest offers a wide variety of crafty options and ideas to think about for the holidays. I often remind my children that the thought behind gifts are far more valuable than the gift itself. Most people seem to be in the same boat this year. Let’s make this one about what truly matters the most.

  8. Mindy Artze says:

    I think I need to decide how much I am going to spend and stay true to it. I never do. But I cannot afford not to now! 🙁

  9. Great thoughts! Nate and I are staying balanced by using cash for Christmas expenses. And honestly if we dip beyond that we are dipping into our house and emergency fund which we are committed to NOT do! Both of our families are understanding/in tighter economic times so everyone is okay with Christmas being more laid back.

  10. Laura Lee says:

    I am most defiantly thinking about consumerism. I feel that the true spirit of holidays has become nothing more than dollar signs for Hallmark and other big companies pushing us to spend, spend, spend.

    I think we should get back to the heart of Christmas and make it about the time spent together, rather than gifts. I’m reminded of a scene in Little Women where Amy receives an Orange for Christmas, (and is uber excited about it) but then must give it to a poorer family.

    Now people expect so much, just give me a nice Christmas lunch (including an orange) and I’ll be happy 😉

  11. christi-TX says:

    I enjoyed reading your post, commercialism is over the top these days. Retailers start pushing their wares before July 1st. I do save extra money all year by saving loose change, the amounts I save from using coupons–i pay my bills online & put back the money I saved from not paying postage. When I BOGO an item I put the cost of the free item in my change jar. If I purchase onlike & receive free shippping I put my “free money in the jar as well. My husband & I also use one CC to purchase everything we can because it gives us a cash back option every year. Any left over money goes in the bank & we start all over for the next year.

  12. Erin Joy says:

    I completely resonate with what you posted here! My husband and I recently had several crazy expensive problems crop up, including a pet with cancer (we paid for the surgery to remove her tumor, but can’t afford treatment past this and are in the wait-and-see-if-it-comes-back-and-deal-with-things-as-they-come phase), unforeseen car repairs totaling $800, and a health issue, and it’s really put a crimp on our Christmas. We’ve been married 4 years, and this is our second Christmas in a row where we have pledged to just do stockings for each other and small gifts for immediate family (I’m very into DIY). Last Christmas felt…different. As a Christian I’ve always been careful to identify more with the ‘reason for the season’ rather than the Black Friday Madness, but there’s still a nagging sense of less-than that plagues us this time of year. DH didn’t have a job last year, and now that he does, my full-time-with-benefits job unexpectedly ended and I’m working full-time hours on part-time pay… so we’re pretty much in the same place, with the same past {youthful} financial mistakes haunting us on the same budget (house before we should have, car before we should have – both were older and genuinely great deals, but still!), PLUS all these crazy additionals. Truth be told, we probably shouldn’t even do the DIY Christmas gifts – but I use coupons, I’ve got a lot of the supplies I need already, etc. {sigh}

    All that to say, I’m in a spot right now where your post is truly an encouragement. I found your blog today after doing some searches about frugal living styles and moving cross country on a tight budget (DH has an interview for a job in AK, and we live in MI right now). I think I’ll be a regular on your site in the coming weeks as we look again at restructuring our finances, being more responsible and possibly planning a crazy move. : } I’m glad you’re blogging! From what I’ve seen, you’ve got a lot of talent and a crazy-cute design.


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