Don’t let holiday gift-giving dampen holiday joy

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Laura Nichols
  • 97th Medical Operations Squadron
The holidays are a particularly vulnerable time for those of us who are prone to over spending. Before heading out to purchase holiday goodies, it is important to check both our thinking and behaviors that surround spending.

Spending Thoughts

1. Money equals love.
Gifts can be thoughtful, personal, and meaningful without spending much money. Pay attention to your loved ones interests throughout the year. "It's the thought that counts." Gifts are nice, but strong relationships between loved ones are priceless.

2. I can pay it off later - ?
If you spend $900, and used a credit card for it, here is the interest you would pay:
6.9 percent  = $16 at three months, $63 at 12 months
12.9 percent  = $29 at three months, $117 at 12 months
18.9 percent  = $43 at three months, $172 at 12 months
24.9 percent  = $56 at three months, $226 at 12 months
It is possible to "pay it off later," but it will be much more expensive to do so.

3. "But it's tradition."
Traditions are a meaningful part of the holidays for many. Some traditions, though, cut into wallets in a way that is no longer (or never was) affordable. If you are faced with expensive traditions, question whether or not the tradition is worthwhile, meaningful to those involved, and whether or not to continue paying for it. For a change, start new traditions that are less expensive and more meaningful (i.e. family members volunteering for a charitable mission together).

Doing the Spending

Once some underlying thoughts about spending have been sorted out, here are some tips for mindful spending.

1. Make a spending plan for the holidays and keep up with it. Keep track of what you spend, and then re-sort your expenses. Take shipping and taxes into account, as well as wrapping items, holiday cards and items you might take to holiday parties. Use cash when possible. Using cash is the easiest way to avoid debt. One thing to consider, though, is that if cash is stolen, it is gone forever. If a credit card is stolen, it can be reported and replaced. Debt is much more common than theft, however -- so it would be wise to stick with cash.

2. Get creative with gifts. Some options are a homemade gift certificate for a service -- like babysitting, cleaning, etc, or making a small family scrapbook. Making gifts creates something personal and irreplaceable. For large families try name exchange, rather than buying all 30 family members a present.

3. Avoid shopping under pressure. Don't wait until the last minute. You are more likely to impulse-buy when you're pushing a deadline.

4. Shred the Convenience checks. Many credit card companies send these out and they might seem like a great help for the holidays- but not for long! Interest will still be arriving on your bill and you will eventually have to pay with an extra amount attached.

5. Comparison shop online. On-line shopping is the current rave and with the easy access to price information you can compare prices but remember to compare shipping costs as well. If you have to use a card to pay - use the debit instead of credit. This will help you avoid interest fees. And always remember internet safety.

6. If you're hosting a family dinner ask others to bring a dish. Not only does this lessen the stress of preparations, but saves on cost for food and allows for less hosts clean up after dinner.

Make your holidays fun, festive and stress free this year. You will find that with out all the debt your New Year will be a better one.