Don’t go into debt buying Christmas gifts

Published 5:08 pm Wednesday, December 18, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

It’s less than a week until Christmas, which means you’ve checked off everyone on your guest list, all the presents are wrapped, Christmas cards are all sent out and you’re just waiting for the big day to get here. Right?

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Probably not.

Most of us have a list of leftover to-dos longer than the menu at family Christmas dinner. But as everyone is going a little — or a lot — crazy trying to get things done before the holiday gets here, we’d like to offer a suggestion: This Christmas, don’t get swept away in the commercial chaos — especially if getting swept away means going into debt.

There are many people right in our community living paycheck-to-paycheck, and quite a few have a small mountain of credit card debt or a mortgage hanging over their heads, as well. There are still others who aren’t even sure where their next meal is going to come from.

We’ve become conditioned over the years to think of gifts as an essential part of Christmas. And the more money you spend on a gift, the more impressive it appears.

But there are people who spend money they don’t really have on Christmas gifts every year, just to keep up appearances. Then, they pay interest on those purchases for months, perhaps even until next Christmas, inflating the cost of those unnecessary gifts even more.

Don’t misunderstand us and think we’re calling for a moratorium on Christmas gifts or anything like that. We all like to get and give gifts, and there’s no reason to Scrooge up Christmas by making people feel bad about something they enjoy.

But we also shouldn’t make each other feel bad if gifts aren’t on the to-do list this year, or if the gifts are smaller. You don’t need to prove your love for your friends and family with gifts; and you can show them love just as well or even better by making time for them, by talking with them, by showing them you care.

If you’re caught up in the Christmas gift frenzy and putting gifts onto credit cards you aren’t going to pay off immediately, take a breath. Ask yourself if the person you’re getting a gift for would really like you to go into debt and pay interest so they can have a moment of happiness? The answer should be, “No.”

When you’re receiving gifts Christmas morning (or whenever your family celebrates), go into the gift-opening anticipating spending quality time with people you love, not getting cool things you want. That way, you still get what you were looking forward to, even if you didn’t get the thing you wanted in a box. And you won’t be contributing to the guilt some feel when they can’t give big gifts, which can cause them to make irresponsible financial decisions.

We’d like to see Christmas be more about the gift of shared time together and less about the gifts that cost money.