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Financial Lessons of the Holidays

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As we prepare for the holidays, it's time to turn our attention to the simple things in life. The holidays give us a moment to strengthen our bonds with family and show our thanks for all the blessings we normally take for granted. In the face of continued financial hardship, it's also a reminder to make the most of what we have. Instead of focusing on what we lack, let's examine ways to build upon our blessings. Below are a few important financial lessons we can learn from the holidays:

The Joys of a Home-Cooked Meal: The holidays reminds us that a big home-cooked meal can turn any dinner into a special ritual. Taking the time to cook a big meal instead of going to a restaurant is cheaper, healthier and allows families to show off their creativity and skills while spending quality time together in the kitchen. Eating out daily adds up quickly. Down the road, those expenditures may leave you vulnerable and ill-prepared to deal with an unexpected cost or emergency.

The Best Things in Life Are Free (or Inexpensive): The holidays also reminds us that our happiest memories don't have to be tied to expensive gifts or fancy outings. Having a good time can be as inexpensive and easy as inviting friends over for a potluck dinner, renting a movie or playing board games with family. If your entertainment spending is putting you in a financial bind, it may be time to reassess your priorities and simplify your outlook. Tying too much of your happiness to expensive brands and gadgets guarantees that you'll remain discontent no matter how much you spend. Focus on cultivating the inner resources you'll always have in abundance, like personal talents, friendship and compassion.

Giving Is Its Own Reward: The holidays are a popular time for food drives and gift banks, but even during this season many of us fixate on our own have-nots because we're constantly bombarded by consumerist ads and images. Helping the less fortunate can clear our minds of these distractions and bring our core priorities and values back into focus. Enrich your life and extend the spirit of giving beyond the holidays by taking advantage of year-round volunteer opportunities at charities, animal shelters or other organizations that give back to the community. These volunteer experiences are not only good for the soul but good for the resume.

Celebrate Your True Wealth: Finally, the holidays reaffirms the central importance of our relationships with loved ones. Our prosperity and well-being as individuals depend directly on the strength of our personal support network and our community at large. Without their help, none of us would be able to achieve true wealth. Rejoice in your interdependence with others, especially your family and friends -- they're the most important asset you'll ever have.

Dedrick Muhammad is the senior director of the NAACP Economic Programs. To learn more about preventing foreclosure and personal finance, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or on Twitter @naacpecon.