Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s a holiday with the least pretense or pomp and circumstance and is almost exclusively focused on family, gratitude and quality time (a.k.a. the things that really matter). That focus is also extremely important for our finances. There is no shortage of distractions when it comes to things we can do with our money, so here are three lessons Thanksgiving can teach us about money.
1. An Attitude of Gratitude
Pilgrims arrived and anchored near Cape Cod, MA in 1620 arriving just before a brutal winter, which many spent on the ship. Between the 66-day voyage and that brutal first winter, half of the 102 passengers and 26 crew members died. In the Spring, when the remaining passengers moved ashore, they were greeted by Natives, who taught them to hunt, fish, farm and survive in this new land. Thanksgiving’s history begins with a celebratory feast where Pilgrims invited local Native tribes to a feast to celebrate their first successful harvest. These were not people of wealth or high status, they went through a traumatic voyage and a brutal winter and lost many lives. One would imagine they would be heavily reconsidering their decision to leave everything they knew in England to risk life and limb for freedom and opportunity. They were grateful for their freedom, they were grateful the gift of life and they were grateful to their gracious hosts, who without them would have certainly not survived.
The money lesson here is gratitude. Gratitude is free, unlimited and enhances your life immeasurably.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. – Melody Beattie
2. The Beauty of Simplicity
There are only three requirements for Thanksgiving – food, family, and fun. Each one of those can take different forms. Whether you have a turkey or go vegetarian. Whether you have a traditional family, or your own community, and fun can mean anything from falling asleep watching football on the couch to card games and uncomfortable conversations about politics. Either way, there are no religious requirements, expectations of gift exchanges, costumes, candy, ceremonies or fireworks. Thanksgiving is simply about spending quality time with the people you love and sharing a feast. There is a simplicity of Thanksgiving that makes it so appealing and universal.
The money lesson here is that money is just a resource if we break it down to its simplest form. Money doesn’t define who we are and it does not make us better than anyone else. Money doesn’t have to be complex and complicate our lives. If we use money wisely, we use it as a resource build or enhance things of real value like time, relationships and community. The very same things we are grateful for on Thanksgiving.
3. Death to Black Friday
Commercial interests have all but ruined Christmas, but over the last decade, those same commercial interests have made a full push to commercialize Thanksgiving. People are actually leaving their loved ones to stand in line at a retail store overnight to buy products. Think about the irony of leaving the dinner table after giving thanks for everything and everybody in your life to stand in line at a store overnight to buy more stuff.
Make no mistake, Black Friday is a retail scam. It’s been proven that major retailers steadily raise their prices in the weeks and months before Thanksgiving for the appearance of steep discounts for Black Friday. Let’s not forget the reason for the season – Thanksgiving is about spending time with your loved ones, not camped outside of Target or Wal-Mart. One more benefit to not Black Friday shopping is that fewer employees will have to work crazy overnight hours on a holiday! Let these folks spend time with their loved ones.
So for this Thanksgiving, both with your loved ones and your wallets, be thankful for what you have, enjoy the things that really matter and let’s all sleep in or play flag football on Friday morning!
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