Are You Financially Preparing for the Picture Perfect Holiday?

by Liz Kitchell

Can we all agree that in 2015, not a single person got the answer correct to the question: “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” Emotions ran the gamut for everyone I know, from being grateful to being home with family, to fear about job security, to loneliness from the isolation, to peace from simplifying their lifestyle, and grief for losing family members to illness or death.  

Like it or not, the future has always been unpredictable, but we live as if we have a crystal ball that has told us how it will all turn out. Then we “go to sleep” until a big event wakes us up to life. COVID was a big wake-up call for many of us. 

As we approach the December holidays, many of us long for that picturesque Norman Rockwell holiday to make up for a crappy year. You know the one, a beautiful home, snow covering the trees, lights on the tree, candles lit in the window, a turkey in the oven, children and grandchildren gathered,  and a dog curled up by the fire place. Some of you will spend a ton of money this holiday season in an effort to achieve this imaginary and elusive vision that someone painted in the 1940s’s—a time when half the houses were fired by coal and the other 25% were heated by woodstoves; more than 50% of homes did not have hot water piped into the house and many didn’t have flushable toilets. 

What is it about those Norman Rockwell visions that are so darned attractive? Personally, I wouldn’t want to go back in time to no running water or electricity, but I secretly romanticize about happy times lived by the Walton family on TV!  

To answer this question, let’s look to a different time in the past—our own memories. If you take a moment and think back on those holidays, birthdays, and events that brought you the most happiness, what do you remember? Think about it in exquisite detail. Who was there? What did you eat? What smells do you remember? What did you laugh about? Was there squealing and giggling of kids? IF the memories aren’t readily available, take a look at some old photos and those feelings will come rushing back!

What you’ll likely see is all the things that made it perfect! But when you’re young, we are oblivious to all the work that went into preparing the meals, buying and wrapping the presents, the frustration felt by the hostess (in my case, my grandma) about trying to get everything ready on time so that no one noticed that the rolls were burnt, or the turkey went into the oven late, or that you forgot the present for Aunt Judy.  I am sure my grandma was more panicked than I ever realized, yet it never impacted my experience of the holidays!!! 

According to Sumitha Bhandarkar, author of “A Simple, Scientifically Proven Way to “Buy” Happiness for Your Family”, the most important thing is to create EXPERIENCES.  It’s the experiences I remember more than anything from childhood. Not the toys, the clothes, or the shows that were on TV.  It was the screaming for our favorite football team together that I remember, not the score of the game. Trying to stay awake all night waiting for Santa with my sisters. Sneaking downstairs in the middle of night, hoping Mom and Dad wouldn’t hear us as we looked at all the presents under the tree.  I have no idea anymore what was under the tree. It was the experience. 

Bhandarkar also reports, and I believe this fully, that perceptions of experiences improve with time and are more “social” by nature, which in turn has been linked to happiness. Plus, experiences seem to be less subject to comparative evaluation. So, go ahead and create your Norman Rockwell experience, but do it with intentionality!  

She says that when you set out to create an experience, be sure to consciously cultivate an “experience gift” culture in your family—a culture takes time, so don’t spring the idea on them December 24th! Tailor the choice of your experience to match the family’s interests and spread out the experiences over a few days if possible. 

Why am I telling you this? For decades I have studied the emotions behind the money. It turns out that the emotions behind money guide everything you do, day-in and day-out. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, a world-renowned author on how to create connections between people, developed a Needs Inventory, that helps people communicate more compassionately. He discovered that there are 7 types of “needs” and when one or more are missing, then you can feel separate from others. These needs include: Connection, Physical Well-Being, Honesty, Play, Peace, Autonomy, and Meaning.  

When you’re feeling pretty good, you’re operating at peak performance with regard to most of the 7 Needs. 

If you’re feeling negative, sad, or down in the dumps, one or more of the 7 Needs re not being met. You probably know the one(s) that is missing most for yourself—a physical need for exercise, quiet time for meditation or reflection, a good laugh, etc. 

If friends and family aren’t engaged, they have one or more of the 7 Needs missing as well—and the one’s they have missing may be completely different from yours. So, if you need physical exercise and your family member needs quiet time, forcing them on a hike may make things worse. 

This is why its so important to create the experience together, so that the needs of all are being met! 

Often around the holidays we are so busy, we don’t even realize that we are missing a Need, we just know that are sad, frustrated, overwhelmed because we are busy. So, pause, feel and get curious about your emotions so they can move allowing all emotions are available to you. Reach out if you need help getting intentional by emailing me at

Happy Holidays to you and yours!!! Much love, connection, laughter, and whatever emotion makes itself known to you!!