It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year.

With Thanksgiving in just a few days, the retail Christmas season is already in full swing.  Having some significant experience in retail, I know that if you’re not pushing Christmas now, you’re way behind.

I was struck by a headline I saw last night – “Why one poll says 45% of people would rather skip Christmas.”  The article goes on to explain who did the polling and why many people are feeling under pretty intense financial pressure this year at Christmas.  Nearly half of the respondents said they have high or extremely high levels of stress related to the holidays.  About the same amount don’t have enough saved to cover Christmas expenses.

If you’re on a plan, if you’re trying to win financially, you cannot let our consumerist, retail-driven culture dictate how you are going to live your life.  You cannot let them win.  I’m not saying you can’t buy gifts for your family.  I’m not saying that.

But if you’re deeply in debt (or a little in debt) Christmas should not set you back.  Make choices to avoid that.  If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and all it takes is an accident or an “emergency” to put you in a bad spot financially, you’ve got to make choices to prevent Christmas from injuring your wallet this year.

That may be weird, and awkward for some people.  But like my friend Dave says, “Normal is broke; be weird.”  To win financially, you have to make tough choices now that no one else will make (aka live like no one else), so that later you get to make the choices that others don’t have the ability to make (so you can live like no one else).

Make the tough choices now so you have freedom at Christmas in years to come.  Don’t let Christmas throw you off track.  Don’t use it as an excuse to get sloppy.  Return in your heart to the basic things of the holidays: Family, Friends, Home.

Because Jesus didn’t come as a child for you to ruin your finances celebrating it.