Ask Chuck: Avoiding The Christmas Spending Trap

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By Chuck Bentley

Dear Chuck,
The commercialization of Christmas feels like a big financial trap! My husband and I want to show love to our kids and family but the pressure to spend and borrow just to put a bunch of packages under the tree seems ridiculous. Any advice for stressed out parents like us?
Bah Humbug!

Dear Ebenezer’s Kin,
Just kidding about being Ebenezer’s relation; here’s a high five for asking what so many others are probably thinking and feeling right now. I understand your pain and will offer some perspective and practical help. I love Christmas – the lights, music, food and celebrations! They are reminders of how our world was changed by the most significant birth in history – the arrival of Jesus Christ. Christmas provides opportunities for families and friends to reunite while offering a pleasant break from routine. Yet, many, in their desire to be generous and loving, have sacrificed all sense and good judgment.

I agree with your observation that the way Christmas is promoted and marketed is a gross commercialism of Christ’s birth. People indenture themselves to creditors for an entire year to buy “stuff” they think will bring happiness to others. I did a little research to see if this was just our sentiment or real life events. A 2017 Consumer Holiday Shopping Report revealed that more Americans are finding themselves in debt because of holiday shopping. Credit card debt rose 8% from 2015 to 2016 and not all of it has been repaid! (If you, or someone you know, are dealing with overwhelming credit card debt, get in touch with Christian Credit Counselors. They’ve been our trusted partners for years and can help you pay off your debt the right way.)

Last Christmas, 63% of Baby Boomers, 58% of Generation-Xers, and 40% of Millennials took on debt. The average person thinks the most they’ll spend this year is $660, with Baby Boomers at $802, Millennials $434, and Gen Xers at $679. Many parents feel pressured to give their children whatever they request. They overextend by failing to plan. They want their children to fit in with their peers and attempt to eliminate feelings of guilt, so they overindulge.

Let’s consider some possible solutions for avoiding the debt trap at Christmas:

1. Pray and seek guidance from the Lord
2. Reset priorities and adjust lifestyle
3. Renew your mind with truth
4. Seek accountability with a trusted friend
5. Plan ahead
6. Budget
7. Pay cash
8. Avoid social media
9. Take on extra job to avoid debt
10. Sell some stuff
11. Build savings now for next Christmas

I have recently written a post offering alternative gift ideas that will possibly be more meaningful and certainly less expensive. I hope you’ll find it very helpful.

Regardless of what we spend, there’s an enemy dedicated to destroying us. We must draw battle lines and reject the lie that debt will bring happiness. Or, that expensive gift is the only way to bring joy to a loved one. Let’s set our hope on God, “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1Timothy 6:17b ESV) He is trustworthy!