As soon as Thanksgiving is over, the panic starts to set in. You were able to ignore the Christmas trees and the menorahs in early November, dismissing them as premature.
But now that the turkey is fully out of your system, it’s time to face the jingle-bell-laden music.
It’s the holiday season, and your loved-ones-to-money ratio is way off. You know you should be happy – the song does say it’s the most wonderful time of the year – but you’re paralyzed by the anxiety of gift-giving.
Get ready to cope with these seven stages of holiday shopping when you have no money.
Stage 1: Online In-Person?
When you were a kid, holiday shopping translated to your mom dragging you from store to store, amid a sea of other children suffering the same fate.
The mall was your de facto gift-buying destination, unless you were rich enough to shop in catalogs (aka the bougie, paper-version of Amazon).
But now, we have two options: 1) Pick out gifts with your own two hands, or 2) select them with the click of your mouse.
Sure, online shopping seems easier at first. But your seemingly limitless options can become overwhelming, and it’s almost impossible to know how something is going to fit or how well-made it is.
Let’s face it: Neither is an anxiety-free option.
Stage 2: Sky’s The Limit
At the beginning of the holiday shopping process, the spirit of the season flows through your veins. You feel like Oprah circa 2004. YOU get an iPad! YOU get Bluetooth speakers! YOU get the full "Harry Potter" series!
Your search for gifts isn’t yet tainted by the lens of money. You’re motivated by love. You want your family and friends to have the best and get everything they want.
Stage 3: Crap, Most Of Those Presents Are For Me
You’re feeling accomplished at this point. You have bags in hand, packages in the mail. And then you review your purchases and realize 75 percent of what you've bought is for yourself, not your loved ones.
It’s just so tempting. You’re out in the retail world, looking at all the amazing products on store shelves. Who knows what people are going to get you for the holidays? Why risk it? You want the gifts you already know you like.
You need to keep your eyes on the prize, though. No more self-gifting (unless it’s on super sale).
Stage 4: OMG, I’m Broke
After you’ve bought your parents a smart TV and gone HAM on your best friend’s gift basket, you take a look at your bank account. And then you grab a paper bag because you’re hyperventilating.
How could you let love blindly lead you into bankruptcy? Why did you forget that, after taxes and benefits, your paychecks are barely able to pay for shelter and food, let alone expensive gifts?
Are you going to need to moonlight as one of Santa’s elves to be able to pay for the rest of your Christmas gift list?
The future is bleak. This is the stage that does the most damage to your heart and your lifespan.
Stage 5: I No Longer Trust My Gift-Giving Skills
Your discouragement from being broke has bled into your ability to choose the right gift for the people on your shopping list. All self-confidence has been chucked out the window along with your money.
You were thinking about getting your mom that sweater, but now you’re worried about whether you have her size right. You were mulling that Batman video game for your brother, but now you can’t remember if the posters on his wall feature DC or Marvel superheroes.
Do you even know anyone anymore? Did you ever know anyone in the first place? Where did that hyperventilating paper bag go?
Stage 6: Thank God For These Coupons
If you hadn’t charged you and your friends’ Rihanna concert tickets to your cash-back credit card earlier this year, every friend would be receiving a fake gift card for “free hugs.”
The only things saving you from going completely bankrupt during the holidays are your coupons, rewards points and gift cards. You don’t want to use all of your free money on everyone else, but you hardly have a choice.
Stage 7: Why Do I Have So Many Friends And Loved Ones?
Yes, the holidays are a time to give back to your friends and loved ones. Yes, the season should be filled with love and gratitude. It should be, but then the resentment starts to bleed through.
While shopping for the holidays, you can’t help but wonder why you’ve chosen to surround yourself with so many wonderful people you want to spoil. You start to think about where you can trim the friend fat, and which relative won’t guilt-trip you for a gift-less card.
Your bank account can’t handle all the people you love.
Of course, these woes will melt away when you and yours are together. Because, despite all the anxieties surrounding money and credit card statements, the holidays remind us that all of the problems were really just rooted in love.
When you’re going through the emotional stages of holiday shopping, hit up T-Mobile for new gifts and new deals, all season long. There’s a perfect gift for everyone on your list just waiting to be unwrapped.