Three easy steps to not overspending this December


The key to curbing the urge to spend and spend and spend at holiday time lies in a Regina Spektor song called “Folding Chair.” No, really! Stay with me here. The lyrics go, in part, “I’ve got a perfect body, but sometimes I forget. I’ve got a perfect body, because my eyelashes catch my sweat.” Huh? What does that have to do with holiday shopping? Well, I’m getting to it.

Commercials and advertisements play on our desire to be more and better and newer and shinier, pushing us into a cycle of dissatisfaction that feeds ever more purchasing. Here’s where Regina comes in. Gratitude for what we have greatly diminishes our urge to spend.  Most of us have a lot to be grateful for, much of which is forgotten or overlooked because it functions as it should. As Regina says, we may think of our bodies as flawed, but take for granted all the things they do perfectly well, like keeping sweat from stinging our eyes.  If we already feel pretty good about our lives, the commercials have much less power. We can watch them and say, “Meh- it’s not worth the line at the mall or the debt on the credit card.” Keeping this idea in mind, here is my personal three step antidote to the onslaught of materialism hitting my ears, eyes and email.

  1. Appreciate my perfect body. Look how my lungs breathe and my heart beats, completely unassisted!
  2. Appreciate my comfortable house. See how the heat hovers around 70 degrees and clean, temperature regulated water streams from the faucets!
  3. Appreciate my highly functional city. Watch as the cars glide over paved roads and respect traffic laws. Observe as mail from all over the country and world is delivered to my front door at the same time every day. Oh the order! Oh the efficiency of it all!

Whenever I lose sight of the everyday glories of my life, my husband likes to remind me of what the comedian Louis C.K. said on Conan O’Brien once: “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy!” We have all these incredible things now that were unimaginable for 99% of human existence, like the ability to fly miles above the earth or to communicate instantly with someone on the other side of the globe. We get used to it much too quickly, and pretty soon we’re groaning about leg room and download speeds.

I’m not saying that we should ignore all the bad things that are happening around us — by all means push to make things better — but when it comes to battling consumerism and keeping the holiday spending in check, it helps to look on the bright side. Before opening your email or turning on the T.V., maybe take a moment and appreciate what a fantastic job your eyelashes are doing today, silly as that may seem. Just start there, and see if the sales aren’t a little less tempting.