Higher Rock Education - Economics Blog

You Don't Have to Go Into Debt This Christmas
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
I love Christmas. I enjoy spending more than one day with my family, attending parties, reading Christmas cards, and of course the tradition of exchanging gifts – both the giving and receiving.  But for our family gift giving has gone a little over the top! This year we hope to emphasize being together and enjoying each other’s presence. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to give each other gifts – but we are going to avoid debt! I do not want anyone to go into debt to buy me a present – and I bet your friends and family feel the same way.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that Americans owed $808 billion in credit card debt in the third quarter of 2017. This is $24 billion more than the second quarter and $61 billion more than a year ago. More sobering is the increase in credit card loans that have become delinquent. Credit card debt that has become more than 90 days past due has increased from 4.4% to 4.6% between the second and third quarters. You can bet this will increase in the fourth quarter. Every Christmas people go into debt - in many cases too much debt. The average credit card balance increased $1,009 during the 2016 Holiday Season according to MarketWatch. Most families plan to take four months to pay off the debts, but those who make the minimum payments are still paying 2016’s debt! Households that carry credit card balance owed an average of $16,601 last year. Added debt means added stress for many of these households. Now before you stop reading and call me Scrooge, here are some ideas that will help you enjoy your holiday and minimize the financial hangover when it has passed.

My favorite gifts are those that the giver has put in a great deal of thought. Honestly, I enjoy receiving a good book more than a hundred dollar present I don’t use. Here are a few ideas:

What is your most valuable resource? For many of us it is time. Consider giving your time to someone. 

  • Does someone you know have several children and few babysitting options? Consider taking care of their children for several hours, thereby providing the parents a well-deserved break. 
  • Is there a chore a loved one HATES doing? Perhaps the person stresses over getting it completed. I have helped a few friends and family members prepare their taxes, saving them money and time. You may not be qualified to prepare taxes, but everyone can do something.

Personal gifts are frequently the most appreciated. 

  • I believe one of the first things I would grab in a fire would be a book my daughter made with pictures of my father following his passing. 
  • Provide a meal for a family once a month. This gift saves the recipient time and the joy of a monthly visit!
  • Consider embroidering or writing a favorite scripture verse or saying on an inspiring picture and framing it. 
  • How about a time capsule? Particularly if it contains items that prompt shared memories. 

The older I get, the more I enjoy experiences and traditions.

  • Is there a charity a loved one is passionate about? If so, then volunteer to work at the charity together in honor of your friend. 
  • Take a family vacation somewhere in the summer. The vacation is not free, but ultimately it may be less expensive because you can give it to several family members at the same time. Delaying the vacation until the summer also allows you to save and avoid debt.
These gifts are more in tune with the Christmas spirit, where we give of ourselves and consider gifts that are meaningful. We wish you a Joyful Christmas and a Happier New Year because you will not be stressed out about debt. See, I am not Scrooge after-all. 

Merry Christmas!



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