Impacts of Consumerism and Our Emotional Connection to Money: What to Watch Out For This Holiday Season.
Jennifer Robins, CFP, Executive Director - Launch Okanagan
Launch Okanagan is a Kelowna based charity whose mission is to help people in our community move forward in life by providing them with the financial knowledge, confidence, and community support to take the next step towards greater independence and sustainable positive change. Jennifer, prior to her tenure with Launch Okanagan, was a professional in the financial services industry for over 20 years, spending 15 years with CIBC in St. John’s, Halifax, Vancouver, and Kelowna.
During Covid many of us have lost jobs and/or have decreased revenue which caused financial stress. Due to marketing and that holidays are based on giving gifts, what can we do so we are not going into debt and causing further financial stress and other stressors.
This week Denise Young with Women in Leadership interviewed Jennifer Robins, Executive Director, Launch Okanagan which is a nonprofit supporting financial literacy. We discussed the importance of knowing our relationship with money and how consumerism influences our spending habits. Jennifer’s passion is helping people learn how to manage their money and watching their confidence and financial stability grow as a result therefore I appreciated interviewing her, and I am excited to share our interview with the WIL community.
Denise: I used to think money was bad and when setting my business financial goals, I didn’t set them too high. I did not want to seem greedy and judged, “how vain of me”. What can people do to understand their emotional view on money and why is this important?
Jennifer: First of all, your feelings are not uncommon. There are other women reading this that have absolutely had those thoughts. There are so many things that can affect our relationship with money and how we feel about money. It might be experiences we had as a child, things our friends have said about money or just messages we hear on social media. I believe that becoming more self-aware of how you feel about money will help you make better financial decisions. To explore your relationship with money you can ask yourself what did you learn about money when you were young? If your parents didn’t specifically teach you about money, what did you hear or see happening in your home? How do those early experiences influence how you think today?
Denise: Yes! Finally at 40ish, I realized the value of money and that money is not “bad”. I am working for it so it is fair game. Some other tips for me is when I wanted to “throw away my money on a liability, not an asset, I had to tell myself, “it is not what you make, it is what you save”. But sometimes spending on yourself is needed within reason.
Denise: The holiday season is quickly approaching. I used to be a gift giver yet now I feel people have what they need but I feel obligated to still show up during the holidays with gifts. I know a few of us are like this so what is your view on how consumerism plays into this?
Jennifer: This is so tough and to be honest, I struggle with finding the right balance for our family every year. The giving of “stuff” for the sake of giving a gift just doesn’t feel right to me. Although everywhere we look, we are being told what we should be buying for the people that we care about. This all begins the week before Black Friday and doesn’t stop until December 24th. No wait, there are the boxing day sales too! It’s never ending. There are ways to counteract how consumerism impacts your Christmas. I can tell you a few things that have helped our family.
Have a conversation with family members and friends. Can you spend time together in lieu of gifts? Can you reduce the number of gifts that you give? For example, if there are a lot of cousins, maybe every cousin gives one cousin a gift (draw names). It’s been my experience that when you have an honest conversation with people, most often they will say that they are stressed about buying so many gifts and you can both agree to skip it altogether.
Have a budget and a detailed shopping list. You will spend less money if you plan ahead.
If you are trying to reduce the “stuff” coming into your home, ask for experience gifts: tickets to a show, a gift certificate to have a meal out. The holidays can be about spending time together.
Engage your family in giving back to the community over the holidays. Could everyone in the family contribute a few dollars to a pot of money? Then together, decide where to donate the money in your community and go together to drop off the donation.
Even if you cut back on your spending and give experience gifts, it can still be hard to pay for the gifts on your list with one month’s worth of income. To prepare for next year, start saving with every paycheque in a savings account. Take your total budget for the holidays and divide it by the number of paycheques between January and mid-November. This is how much you should transfer into your savings account immediately after you get paid. Set up an automatic transfer and you won’t have to think about this. Of course, this transfer has to fit in your budget.
Consider other ways to be a smart consumer: shop local, use recyclable wrapping paper, buy products that are earth friendly.
Denise: Great tips! What are some other consumerism impacts on people during the holidays?
Jennifer: I think it’s easy to get caught up in what the holidays are supposed to look like, especially if you are on social media. It would cost thousands to decorate your house to look like what you see online. You can make amazing memories no matter what your holiday décor looks like!
Denise: As the holidays approaches what are some things we can do to watch our spending?
Jennifer: I would recommend keeping all of your receipts in an envelope and keep track of what you are spending. This could be as simple as taking the budget that you created and writing down what you have spent on each person on your list. That way you can compare what you actually spent versus your budget and ensure you don’t overspend. You will also remember exactly what you have purchased and won’t forget a present that you hid on the top shelf in your closet! If you have little kids and you hide things in multiple places, maybe write down where you hid the present! Last year I hid one present so well I almost didn’t find it on Christmas Eve.
Denise: As I know there will be few readers like myself who are also business owners, I would like to end with a business question. When I teach business classes a lot of students are surprised when I advise them to ensure their personal finances are integrated with their business finances. Why do you think this is important for those who own a business?
Jennifer: If you are a business owner you are responsible for the balance sheet and income statement of not just your home but also your business, and in many cases the two are closely linked. The financial decisions you make in your personal life can affect your business and vice versa. You don’t want to limit your potential with your business, but you also don’t want to make financial decisions that put you in an uncertain financial situation, personally or professionally.
Denise. Yes, I agree. I think this is very important, especially with what we went through with the pandemic. I lost a year and a half of work. What saved me is planning. I ensured that each month I put away an “emergency fund”. Therefore, I lived within my means and did not spend on “wants”.
Resources to Support Financial Literacy:
“The Wealthy Barber Returns” by David Chilton. Turn to the chapter called “Consumed with Consumption”. How we consume is something we should think about all year long. As the Wealthy Barber says, “I genuinely believe that our never-ending material quest is not only sabotaging our financial tomorrows, but also negatively impacting our psychological todays.”
Launch Okanagan: Dollars and Sense Program on Zoom
Free 8-week program beginning in the new year.
In week two of this program, we talk about consumerism.
Register at www.launchokanagan.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Launch Okanagan: www.launchokanagan.ca
Stay tuned for our next article with Sylvia Fleming with deThomas Wealth who will provide tips on budgeting to get us back on track for the New Year. Happy Holidays and thank you for continuing to support WIL.
Article Written by Denise Young, WIL National Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and CEO and Consultant of Tiger’s Eye Advisory Group, a people-focused business solutions company that values collaboration and empowerment. She creates collaborative work spaces where “everyone is at the table”. She has a Bachelor of Management and a Masters of Arts in Communication and Technology from University of Alberta.
Reach out to Denise if you or your organization is interested in Diversity and Inclusion Programs, Leadership Workshops or Communication Strategic Planning.
Connect with Denise:
LinkedIN: Denise Young