Happier Holidays: Getting Off the Consumer Escalator

By Marcia Shetlerautumn-19672_1280

During the last week of October, I was running errands. At the grocery store, I noticed snowmen statues scattered among the baskets of fall mums. At the home improvement center, Halloween and Christmas decorations were competing for space on crowded shelves. The holiday shopping season seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, giving us more and more time to plan our shopping strategy to make ourselves and others happy—or so we think.

In North America, shopping has become enmeshed with celebrating the holidays. We can name when Black Friday, Cyber Monday—and in Canada, Boxing Day—take place as easily as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And not only do we know these days, we participate. gift-1420830_1280In their online Holiday Headquarters, the US National Retail Federation’s recent survey found that US consumers plan to spend an average of $935.58 during the holiday shopping season this year. Nearly six in 10 plan to buy for themselves, spending an average $139.61, up 4 percent from last year and marking the second-highest level of personal spending in the survey’s 13-year history. The Royal Bank of Canada reports that the number of Canadians who are spending more than they expect to each holiday season continues to grow, reaching the highest point in five years in December 2015.

The title of this month’s COMPASS Initiative topic may feel a bit dated, as US consumers report a three-way tie for their holiday shopping destinations: department stores, online, and discount stores. And Statista reports that although in North America the United States is by far the largest national market for e-commerce, Canada is slowly but surely catching up, with online retail sales expected to reach almost 50 billion Canadian dollars by 2019. But the escalator imagery is a good one as we consider what happens, unfortunately, to many holiday shoppers, as their expenses and their debt go up and up. According to In Charge Debt Solutions, one survey after the 2015 holiday shopping season revealed that US consumers added nearly $1,000 to their credit card debt balances. While similar Canadian statistics are harder to find, HIBUSINESS reports that Canadian consumer debt reached an all-time high this spring.

So during November, we’ll explore how we can get off the stressful up escalator and on the down escalator toward a more meaningful holiday season. Each week new articles here on the COMPASS blog will provide practical ideas, personal reflections, and spiritual insights. Follow our Twitter feed and join us on Facebook all month long for great curated content on the topic. And learn about resources on the COMPASS web page that you can use for further in-depth study.

Finally, our monthly Live Chat on Wednesday, london-692137_1280-mallNovember 16, 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain, 5 p.m. Pacific, features Darryl Dahlhemier, Program Director for LSS Financial Counseling. During this Chat, expect to be inspired with examples of ways to capture the spirit and personal meaning of holiday celebrations. We’ll discuss ways to transform older traditions into new rituals that prioritize connection with family and friends, as well as “Talking Back to Advertising” and getting away from more and bigger material focus. Want to imagine the holidays with no extra financial stress and no “debt hangover” in the new year? Join us at the Chat!

The COMPASS Steering Committee and I look forward to journeying with you this month as we meet each other on Facebook, Twitter, and at our Live Chat, to gain new insights into having Happier Holidays!

About the Author

marcia shetlerMarcia Shetler became the Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center in March 2011. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible Certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Frugal Fall: Halloween decorations

During October, the COMPASS blog is sharing thoughts, tips, and reflections about having a Frugal Fall. Today, we are happy to welcome Chelsea DeBall and welcome back to the blog, her husband Matt DeBall. Together Chelsea and Matt share some about what their family does to have fun decorating for Halloween while staying frugal.

pumpkinsDecorating for the holidays can be a cumbersome task that can also be accompanied by a hefty price tag. But just because you don’t have big bucks to spend on decorations doesn’t mean your house needs to go through these festive seasons looking sparse! We’ve found a few easy & affordable decorating ideas for Halloween and would love to share them with you. But first…

Why decorate for Halloween?

If you’re a person of faith, decorating for Halloween might seem like a waste of time and money. Why would any Christ-follower want to decorate their home for what some people call “the devil’s holiday”?

In John chapter 3, we find Jesus and Nicodemus talking about how someone may receive eternal life. Though the conversation is important and we find the iconic and well-known image of God’s love in John 3:16, the circumstance in which Nicodemus approached Jesus for this conversation was “at night” (John 3:2). Whether this conversation was actually at night or if the gospel writer was explaining the spiritual condition in which Nicodemus was in as he approached Jesus, either is fitting. As Jesus revealed God’s love in word and deed to Nicodemus, he did so by being available and having a spirit of hospitality.

So why decorate for Halloween? Because it is a way to show love to our neighbors and reach out into the community. Because having carved pumpkins on our porch and passing out candy to neighbor-kids is a way to make ourselves available. And most important, because in doing so, we follow in the hospitable footsteps of Jesus.

A few frugal tricks to treat your home to a Halloween make-over:

Pumpkins at the right price – Want fun & unique pumpkins but don’t want to pay the nursery prices? Check a local farmer’s market. At least one stand should sell pumpkins, gourds, or festive mums at a reasonable cost. Plus, what better way to show love to local farmers than buying fall produce? Don’t forget to grab some apple cider donuts as you leave!

Do-it-yourself ghosts – Have some old white sheets? Make friendly ghosts for your front yard! Simply cut the sheet in half (giving you fabric for 2 ghosts), then drape the sheet over a styrofoam sphere from the floral section of a craft store. Tie the sheet to form the “head” of the ghost, and then practice your art skills by drawing a face on the new ghoul. Hang the ghosts with fishing line or twine from gutters, shutters, or trees to quickly and easily spook-ify your lawn.

skeleton flamingos-squareFestive skeleton flamingos –Remember those plastic pink flamingos you were embarrassed to have as decorations? Well it’s time to go diving through the garage because there is a fun way to decorate these for Halloween. Grab black spray paint and white acrylic paint at your local craft store. Spray paint your flamingos with the black paint and cover all remnants of its pink past. Once it has dried, use a picture from the web (search for “skeleton pink flamingo”) as a guide and begin painting your skeletal flamingos. Once the white paint has dried, it’s time for them to haunt your garden!

Low-priced Halloween decorations – Want to decorate for Halloween but time or patience to craft eludes you? Make coupons your friend or find cheap decorations at grocery stores. Many craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels have great sales on seasonal decorations. Have a little money left in your budget? Consider buying discounted decorations after the season has passed as stores significantly cut prices on “last season’s” décor.

As you prepare your home with do-it-yourself decorations for Halloween and your heart to be available for neighbors, be ready to save money and see God work in mysterious ways.

What do-it-yourself decorations will you try this Halloween? Is your church doing anything special for the community to celebrate this spooky holiday?

C&MDeBall-9-15About the Authors: Chelsea and Matt DeBall live with their Welsh Corgi (Watson) in northern Illinois. Chelsea works as an assistant for a Special Recreation Association, and enjoys writing, baking, and home-decorating. Matt serves as a coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren, is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity from Northern Seminary, and enjoys running, reading, and napping. Together, they love the fall and spending time with family.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.