Facing Blue Monday

What is Blue Monday? Blue Monday, that day no one puts on any calendar, at least not the official calendar. You know, like Black Friday or Happy Friday (does anyone get those anymore?).

To be clear, there is no “official” day with that title. Blue Monday doesn’t make it onto the highlight reel of special days of the year. Blue Monday is the day December You gets introduced to January You.

Who’s December You?

You remember December You … That was the you who was so giving before Christmas. That was the you who thought of all your family, friends, and work acquaintances with happy thoughts; who thought you could win over others with a “thoughtful-little-something.” That was the you who thought of everyone who gave you a gift last year that you, quite frankly, forgot about. The you who, as Christmas quickly rushed into your present, rushed out to get more presents. Who thought, “Just one more little thing…” more times than you really remembered, until you realized it all didn’t actually fit into their tiny little stocking. That was the you who gave like you really wanted to give, but really did not pay attention to price tags.

Christmas shopping

Is this bringing things back to mind? Are you getting a picture that is coming into focus? Is the fog starting to clear? December You was generous. December You was so free with that slippery little plastic card. December You had a bit of a memory lapse when it came to the amount of spending.

So … who’s January You?

Now, January You is getting a little concerned. January You is now getting a big picture view of the cost of December You’s generosity. January You is moving beyond concern and is moving into the territory of resentment! And that resentment has grown into apprehension and outright anxiety. How is January You going to be able to afford all of December You’s spending?

This all shows up on Blue Monday. Blue Monday is approximately the third Monday of January, when December’s credit card bills show up in the mailbox. Blue Monday is kind of like a spending hangover for all the fun and frivolity that was enjoyed the month before. It’s the realization that spending with a credit card is really “friction-less spending” … You didn’t feel it then, but now it’s hurling its cruel reprimands, regrets, and remorse.

paying bills

When it comes to credit cards, they really are convenient! They really make things simpler, and life is less complicated at the cash register when all you have to do is flash that little wonder. Why, it’s become even less complicated with the introduction of Tap and Go. It’s even simpler with things like Apple Pay, a system where you can use your phone to pay. It’s already in your hand, and you don’t have to pull out your wallet and fumble through every piece of plastic you own to pull out the appropriate card. It’s so easy.

And therein lies the rub. Easy isn’t always best. Easy doesn’t always help us. Easy has a dim view of the future.

Is there a way to deal with this?

But, we didn’t come here to beat up on December You. Nor did we come here to offer critique on the modern day economic system or the pitfalls of electronic spending.

We kind of liked December You, and the feeling was genuinely good. Generosity is not a trait that’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but rather a quality that ought to be developed. Giving is better than receiving, right?

So how do we deal with this? How do we fix this … this Blue Monday feeling?

How to Survive Blue Monday

Without trying to minimize the situation, we need to deal with this with integrity … We need to put on our “big boy” and “big girl” pants. And to quote Captain Obvious, we need to repair the damage and make certain this does not happen again … Can that be done? I believe it can!

So, let’s roll up our sleeves, get out a mop, and clean up the mess … Because it’s a mess if we feel like the spending of last month outstrips our ability to pay it all in one month.

Getting this straightened out and cleaned up will not be an easy, 5-step quick fix. Quite frankly, it’ll be a little difficult. But that’s okay … Taking the easy way is why we find ourselves here. And at this point you’d expect to hear something like, “Conquering Mount Everest means taking one step at a time,” or “Nothing significant is arrived at without significant effort,” or some such platitude. But let’s solve this once and for all. Roll up your sleeves …

Here’s how to clean up our debt:

  1. Start by Breathing. Yes … breathe. It’s good for you, and not breathing could be more fatal than the bills themselves. All is not lost – none of this is life-threatening. We will not die from this. Will it be hard? Potentially, but you’ve got this!
  2. Pray. When Paul wrote a letter to a new church in the city of Philippi, he knew they were worried about things, common things, and he wrote this to them: “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.” (Phillipians 4:6, NET) So pray a real simple prayer admitting your finances has you worried, and ask God for help – and thank Him for the help He will send you. This one is hard if you’ve never done it, but try it … You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain. We have a big God. And just for clarification, also ask God to help you recognize when His help shows up – that it’s God who is answering.
  3. Take Stock. Make a total of all you owe from December (and give December You a gentle high five for being generous). Don’t be overwhelmed by the total. Remember #2 – we asked a big God for help. But be honest about what you owe. Write it down and maybe write that note from Phillipians 4:6 over top of the owing part, claiming God’s help.
  4. Create a Spending Plan. Build a plan (some people like to call this a budget … sounds boring to me) for meeting all your obligations for the month and include the amount for your December spending. Oh, wait … that’s why we are concerned – because we don’t have enough to pay it all off this month … even if we do nothing but eat, go to work, and keep warm in what’s traditionally the coldest month of the year. If that was your voice, go back to #1 (Breathe), then #2 (Pray) … then go back to the plan. The wisest man that ever lived, Solomon, wrote, “Put God in charge of your work; then what you’ve planned will take place.” (Prov 16:3 MSG) In your spending plan, if there isn’t enough to pay it all, spread it out over the next couple of months and get it paid in as short a time as you can possibly do it.*
  5. Plan for Next December.  The idea is to give December 2019 You freedom to spend, without causing January 2020 You concern. Once you’ve paid off all of December You’s spending, include in your Spending Plan an amount each month (likely equal to what you’ve just done for each month to catch up on December 2018). If you’ve built up an amount equal to what you spent last year (assuming you liked what you spent this year), then you can spend that in December 2019 with total freedom. You can remove the guilt and regret and make December You someone who is fun. Someone to look forward to.

dealing with debt

And as a side note … When next Christmas comes steaming at you like The Polar Express next year, don’t fear it. Spend what you’ve saved, and wave at the train as it rolls on by. To make the waving even more fun, do your Christmas shopping in cash. You read that correctly – use that stuff nobody even uses anymore to avoid the slippery spending of credit cards. When you use cash, you know when you’ve reached your limit, and you might even spend less … It happens!

And maybe in January 2020 you won’t even get to celebrate Blue Monday … Oh, boo.

Written by Dale Dyck, co-leader of FAC’s Financial Freedom Ministry.

*As a side note, if all this Spending Plan and getting-out-of-debt-stuff is foreign to you, you might want to consider the Living [Within] Your Means Financial Freedom program offered at FAC.