thejourneyof me

The Holidays Aren't That Bad*

December 2021 | 58% |

This is a Financial Freedom Update post. Each month I report the status of my journey towards more financial freedom and reflect on my progress. To learn more about financial freedom please see my Think Week 2021 post where it all started.

In my last update I braced myself for one of the more expensive months—December. But I’m pleasantly surprised to find that it is not that bad (see Friends and Family below for more about my conflicted feelings).


I saved 58% of my income in December. And to me that is a great result. It is above my 50% goal and I only have a single expense I feel a slight regret about.

Category Percentage of expenses
Home 56.38%
Food 15.36%
Gift 10.94%
Personal 8.21%
Union 4.01%
Utilities 3.21%
Transportation 1.87%
Other 0.04%

The biggest difference between last month and this one is the Gift row. Naturally. Christmas gifts accounted for 11% of my expenses. Personal is also higher this month—twice the size of last month. But most of it is money spent with friends so I have no regrets about that.

Other than that there isn’t much to say about the expenses. I had one personal expense that I should have been without but it is a minor one in the big picture and I’m still a complete beginner at this.


In November I took action to cut down my expenses—I purged my subscriptions and used the public library for the first time in many years. This month I didn’t do much of that. But I still had a good result.

I simply didn’t buy anything or do anything expensive (except for New Year’s).

I have lots of things I can improve. Lots of things I want to improve. But at the core it comes down to what I did this month—don’t spend money on things I don’t need.

Friends and Family

I celebrated Christmas with family and New Year’s with friends. And when I look back I realize that while I did not have an expensive month, some may have had. I especially think of my parents. We went on a Christmas trip early in December and I paid nothing for that. Same for Christmas.

I feel bad about this.

I know I am lucky to have such great people in my life. But I also know I have never appreciated them or their support as much as I should.

And now that I’m trying to spend less on things I don’t need it seems like I have encountered this conflict of other people spending money on me. I hit my goal this month but did I do it at the cost of someone else? Is this path making me even more self-centered?

I’m not sure I have the answer yet. It’s easy to dismiss the idea by claiming that money is not important. That friendship and family are above that. But that’s just not true. Relationships are what you invest in them. And if I don’t want to invest in mine they will suffer.

For New Year’s we had delicious food from a restaurant. And we split the cost. That one is easy. But what about something like a Christmas trip, all expenses paid?

How can I make up for that?

I can maybe accept there is nothing to make up for. Good relationships are built by investing in them but it is not a game. There is no score. You don’t look at the numbers and decide who is ahead or behind.

I want to invest more in my relationships. But it shouldn’t be because I have to make up for anything—or because I want to get ahead. The only good reason to invest in a relationship is that I want a stronger bond.

My journey right now is to reduce expenses. So I won’t invest by spending more money. In the case of the Christmas trip, I don’t think my parents would want that either. I want to make up the difference I feel in another way. I will try to invest a resource more valuable and scarce than money—my time and attention.

Thinking About Money

When I decided to cut down my excess spending I did not consider complications like these. I expected resistance but I didn’t know what form it would take.

Spending less money does complicate some things. But then again, I’m not sure I would have contemplated this relationship/money dynamic had it not been for these monthly reflections. And I’m glad I did.

Only by being more thoughtful can I start to discover and evolve my relationship with money and understand the implications of that relationship. And I think that is a lesson far overdue.