Today is Halloween in America.
It’s a fun day—one I always look forward to.
When I was a kid, I LOVED trick-or-treating with my brother and sister (even in the cold October 31st weather of South Dakota). Nowadays, in Phoenix, we host a party in our driveway on Halloween night for our friends while our kids gather candy from the neighbors. It’s a fun holiday—I do enjoy it.
However, in my mind, Halloween also marks the beginning of the longest season of excess in our country:
I think of it this way:
- Halloween is…
- followed by Thanksgiving…
- followed by Black Friday…
- followed by Cyber Monday…
- followed by Christmas…
- followed by New Year’s Eve.
No wonder everybody in the country decides on January 1st they need to make changes in how they are living. Halloween through New Year’s has just equaled 64 days of excess.
Look at some of the stats:
For Halloween, Americans are expected to spend $8.8 billion on candy, costumes and decorations this year—that’s $86 for every person who plans to celebrate. Including $2.6 billion on candy (for a one-day holiday!) and half a billion dollars on costumes for their pets. And somewhere along the way, inflatable Halloween decorations in our front yard became a thing…
Thanksgiving is famous for three things: family, football, and overeating. Meals are important and so is celebration. Thanksgiving is a special day in our home with good food and meaningful traditions. So please don’t read that I disapprove of the holiday.
But let’s be honest, when the average American consumes 4,500 calories in a single day (almost twice the recommended daily intake), it’s easy to see how the holiday contributes to this season of excess.
Thanksgiving gives way to Black Friday (with some stores choosing to open on Thanksgiving Day). Black Friday gives way to Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. All told, Americans will spend $90B shopping for unneeded items the weekend immediately following a day being grateful for all the things they do have.
And then of course, we have the Christmas season and all the excesses that accompany the holidays celebrated during the month of December.
The calendar is full of scheduled events (work parties, church parties, dance recitals, band performances, family gatherings, and community events). Billfolds are opened wide and often—50% of holiday shoppers either overspend their holiday budget or do not set one at all and 28% of holiday shoppers enter the season still paying off debt from last year’s gift shopping.
One week later, we’ll gather again to celebrate the start of a New Year (or in this year’s case, a new decade). We’ll eat more, drink more, attend more parties, and stay up later than we normally would.
When everything is all said and done, on January 1, we’ll stand on the scale, open our credit card statement, or take one look around the house and realize that change is necessary.
We will resolve to lose weight, get out of debt, organize the house, or overcome an addiction that began in moderation but grew into excess. We’ll know we overdid it the past couple months and resolve to do better going forward.
Seasons of extended excess often lead to the realization that change must occur. And that season of excess starts today… on Halloween.
The upcoming months are a wonderful time of year filled with family, traditions, and memories to be made. We honor our faith, our past, and the communities we live in.
But if you are often swept away by the excesses of the upcoming season, resolve today to not make the same mistakes of the past. You don’t need to wait until January 1st to make that decision.
Set boundaries on your spending. Know your financial limitations and develop your budget now for the entire season. Don’t let November & December ruin your January thru October.
Set boundaries on your celebrations. You do not need to embrace excess to enjoy this season of the year. Halloween can still be enjoyed without an inflatable black cat in your front yard. Thanksgiving can still be enjoyed without a stomachache. Christmas can be appreciated without falling into consumerism. And New Year’s can be enjoyed in moderation.
Set boundaries on your expectations. Too many of us fall into the thinking that the perfect holiday requires us to overextend ourselves. We want everything perfect for our kids (regardless of their age), our friends, and ourselves. And we think that means mountains of decorations, gifts, or sugary foods. But your perfect holiday season doesn’t require your excess. Many times, it simply needs your presence.
I will enjoy myself this evening out in the driveway handing out candy, visiting with my neighbors, and celebrating a simple American tradition.
I can enjoy this holiday (and the next one) without falling into the trap of excess. Most of those excesses are entirely manufactured by those who profit from it anyway.