In days of yore, sailors were paid in advance for their first month at sea. Most of them had usually spent all of it (or rather, drunk all of it) before they came aboard. So for their first month they were working to earn money they had already spent, and thus were not terribly motivated. Trying to get them to do anything was like flogging a dead horse, i.e. pointless. At the end of the month the sailors would make an effigy of a dead horse, beat it, then dump it overboard. This is (one version of) the origin of the phrase "flogging a dead horse".
Earlier this month I challenged you to calculate your hourly take-home pay. If you know this number, you can convert any purchase into "work-hours". So you can see that the beautiful wool coat you really want costs 30 work-hours, or the lunch at Starbucks that takes twenty minutes to eat will cost you a whole hour at work.
But what if your money is spent before you even earn it? Do your mortgage repayments, loans and credit card repayments eat up your entire paycheck? Maybe this isn't a year-round situation, but you over-extend yourself every Christmas, planning to pay it back in January. Then like the seamen, you spend the first month of every year flogging a dead horse.
It's none of my business. Maybe you like it that way. If you have thought about it and decided that a few days of mid-winter revelry are worth a January of belt-tightening, then that's your informed decision, and that's fine. But perhaps a few people reading this are thinking "No, I don't really enjoy it that much. It's just stressful and expensive. But I feel obliged."
I've sat staring at this post for a long time. I've deleted big parts of it, and then retyped some of it over again. I'm worried it sounds preachy. But honestly, I don't want to tell people how to spend their money. My main point is that no-one should tell you how to spend your money. But that's exactly what adverts do - and lots of people fall into the trap. It's not because they're stupid, it's because the ads are clever. They use sophisticated psychological techniques to make you feel that you won't be happy unless you buy their products. You won't be popular. You won't be attractive. You won't be a good parent. That's strong stuff. And they've bombarded you since your earliest years. They bombard you from all directions. And they bombard your family and friends so that if you try to break free, the people you love will accuse you of those same things they've seen in the ads. It's no joke. It's social engineering on a scale Chairman Mao could only dream of. And it works.
The point I'm trying to make is that you should decide for yourself what Christmas means to you, and you should decide for yourself how you spend your money. You can have a happy and stressless Christmas without spending lots of money. I swear it's true. Wake up. Think on. Opt out.