Fribble Thursday, December 2, 1999

Taking Stock of the Holidays

By Shoma Aditya (sterope1@yahoo.com)

It's that time of year again. The air has gotten chillier here in the Northeast and the days have gotten shorter. The leaves have changed colors and started to fall. Autumn has arrived in full force, and you know what that means:

The holidays are coming.

Every year, I tell myself that I'm going to get to New Jersey early and avoid the whole travel nightmare known as "The Day Before Thanksgiving." I tell myself that I'm going to get my shopping done early and avoid the whole Christmas rush and the throngs of people that congregate in the malls for the sales that start on the day after Thanksgiving. I tell myself that I'm not going to overspend for presents. But of course, it never works that way. There's always some last minute project that delays the commute home for the holidays, or that one person for whom you couldn't find just-the-right present, and so you just can't avoid the mall. And there's the cutest little outfit that would look soooo darling on your little nephew that you just have to have it....

So what does this have to do with money or finance? Nothing really, except that I know I've used my investments to pay for plane tickets home or presents for my loved ones. And not just in the sense that I've set aside part of my profits to pay for these things. I've bought books from Amazon.com, clothes from the Gap, talked to relatives on AOL about what to buy for people. I even plan on giving the gift of stocks to a certain youngster in the family so that he'll become a long-term investor early in life. But this isn't what I really wanted to talk about.

With all the stress that comes from the holidays -- whether it's being stuck in traffic on the drive or plane ride home, fighting your way through a crowd of shoppers, getting packages and cards mailed out so they'll arrive in a timely fashion, wondering if you should've waited an extra couple of days to see if that sweater you bought for someone went on sale, or hiding from relatives that are trying to pinch your cheeks -- whatever it is that gives you stress, it's easy to use the stress as an excuse to forget exactly what it is that the holidays are about and why they are important.

The holidays are about being thankful and grateful for what you have (woo-hoo! AOL split twice this year!), what you've accomplished (I'm finally making the maximum contribution I can to my 401(k) plan), and for your friends and your family. It's about spending time with the people you love best, and taking stock (pardon the pun) of what really is important to you -- both personally and professionally.

And while you ponder all the things that are really important while you're furiously buying presents and dodging traffic, never forget that sometimes, the best things in life -- hugs from a friend, kisses from your sweetheart, smiles from your children -- really are free.

And get your shopping done early next year.