With Thanksgiving Day quickly approaching, many Wisconsinites consider the “holiday season” to be officially underway. There are so many great traditions that come along with the holidays, and each group of family or friends has their own unique twist on tradition. And whether you really get into the holiday spirit or not, most of us would admit that there is a different feeling in the air around the holidays. It’s a time to be with friends and family, give and receive gifts, eat delicious food, and maybe take some time off of work or go on a winter vacation. For those reasons and others, it’s been called “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Today we are going to discuss an American phenomenon that happens during the holiday season—“cheating.” No, we aren’t talking about cheating on a test or cheating at a game of cards; we are talking about the idea of letting ourselves bend some of our own rules during this holiday season.
Perhaps you or someone you know has been on a diet that has a “cheat day” or “cheat week” built in. The idea is that the dieter is allowed to divert from the strict regimen of his or her diet every once in a while. The thinking is that a little built-in break will make someone more likely to continue the long-term process by not getting too overwhelmed by the constraints of the diet. Sure, a “cheat day” might be a temporary setback in the progress of the diet, but it allows for the long-term goal to be accomplished. It’s like strategically losing a battle in order to win the war.
So it comes as no surprise that, during this time of delicious food and drink, people allow themselves to “cheat.” For some, maybe it’s just suspending the entire diet for a whole month and a half and allowing themselves to indulge in all of their favorite things. For others not specifically on a diet, it might mean they just don’t watch what they eat as much as they usually do. While we’re not qualified nor is it our place to comment on whether or not this is a good idea, I think we can all agree that it is a phenomenon this time of year in southeastern Wisconsin and all over America.
Where does this tie into debt and bankruptcy you may ask? There is another way people let themselves “cheat” during the holiday season that has nothing do with physical health or gaining or losing weight. People tend to let themselves “cheat” financially during this time of year. To be fair, there are expenses that come along with the holiday season that aren’t normally part of a regular budget. Gift giving, entertaining, and traveling tend to be at the top of the list, and these are all good things that would be a shame to miss out on because of a penny-pinching mindset. Unfortunately financial “cheating” can get out of control quickly. For many Americans, rather than making a careful plan about how to pay for some of the extra expenses the holiday season brings with it, they just tell themselves that, for a month and a half, it’s ok to ignore budgets and financial restrictions altogether. Retailers know this and are especially good at cashing in!
For Americans with a lot of disposable income, they may be able to absorb the blow of “cheat season” pretty easily. But most Americans don’t have a lot of disposable income, and “cheating” can have some consequences. Psychologists have actually calculated the most common day—Jan. 24th—that the holiday credit card bills come due, and they have labeled it “the most depressing day in America.” People may have had fun racking up the credit card bill over the holidays, allowing themselves and their family every little indulgence of the season, but didn’t give much thought to having to pay for it a month later.
Like with “cheating” on a diet, we’re also not here to comment on how little or much financial flexibility anyone should allow him or herself during the holiday season. But we’ve found that simply being aware of the phenomenon is half the battle. Understand that you will be tempted to “cheat” quite often this holiday season and make sure you have a plan. If you will allow yourself some flexibility, do it consciously and with a plan. If you need to pick and choose what’s most important to you, think about it ahead of time so that you can do it with purpose.
Finally, if you are feeling the financial burden from “cheat seasons” past or from any other financial setback, please make an appointment to speak with one of our expert Milwaukee bankruptcy attorneys. Whether you need to find out about the bankruptcy process or just have some questions about what your best options are, we are here to help!