And for most debt-weary Americans, shopping is not on that list.
Did you know that 24 percent of Millennials are still paying off credit card debt incurred during the last holiday season? This shocking fact comes from the 2017 Consumer Holiday Shopping Report released by NerdWallet and reported on here by CNBC. The number is slightly lower for Gen-Xers at 16 percent and Boomers at 8 percent.
And yet, despite this lingering debt, many Millennials will join the hordes of shoppers both today, on Black Friday, and over the coming weeks in order to ensure there are gifts under the tree for friends and family.
Apparently they don't even like it. Another report by Pew Research Center lists the top three things that Americans dislike about the holiday season, and all three relate to purchases: consumerism/materialism, financial worry, and stressful crowds. A paltry 1 percent says shopping is their favorite thing about the holidays.
Joshua Becker cites another revealing statistic on his website, Becoming Minimalist:
"Nearly 7 in 10 Americans (69 percent) said they would skip exchanging gifts this holiday season if their friends and family agreed to it."
So why do we do it?
Why do we perpetuate this unpleasant cycle that stresses us out and incurs debt far beyond what we can pay off in a reasonable amount of time? It is absurd.
The fault lies partly in our attachment to what we erroneously perceive to be tradition, yet is really more of a habit. There is a difference, as Becker explains:
"Traditions help us celebrate and honor recurring events in our lives. Whether we are setting aside a day for gratitude or setting aside an entire season to celebrate faith, family, or both, traditions should draw our attention to the underlying reason for the season. Traditions should not detract from the season, they should elevate it."
Buying stuff doesn't have to be part of our tradition if we don't love it. Becker quotes Rachel Jonat, a.k.a. The Minimalist Mom:
"We don’t have to continue holiday traditions that leave us broke, overwhelmed, and tired."
I love this quote, as it can be applied to so many aspects of the holiday madness, not just shopping. (I'm thinking about the enormous Christmas dinner that keeps us stuck in the kitchen for much of the day.)
This could be the year when you reexamine your family's holiday traditions, choosing which to keep and foster and which to get rid of forever. You don't have to do what everyone else is doing, especially if it's getting you into debt or creating any level of anxiety in your life. Just do what serves you and your family.