Tackling the Problem of Christmas Debt
The Christmas season is supposed to be a time of joy and blessing but for many, it’s a season of stress and worry. Some of us live with the pressure to spend money on gifts and we’re expected to go to great expense to travel and visit our families. The expectations placed on us by others during the holidays can be crippling, both emotionally and financially.
Christmas debt was something I came to expect. I lived with the stress of meeting the expectations of others, which always came with a price tag attached. But I don’t live in that prison anymore. I have a new perspective on Christmas debt and it’s given me a joy that had always eluded me.
The problem with expectations during the Christmas season (for me) was the idea that if I didn’t go into debt buying presents for family and friends, they wouldn’t love me anymore. Yes, it’s a lie, but it’s a very convincing lie. And it’s one that credit card companies and retailers have become adept at selling us. “They deserve the best and you need to make sure they have it.”
When my children were growing up, they knew that every year they’d find a massive pile of presents under the Christmas tree. And I knew I’d need to work a lot of overtime during the next six months to pay for it. The pressure to spend all that money wasn’t actually coming from the kids. It was a lie that came from the enemy. “They won’t love you if you don’t get them everything they ask for.”
I believed the lie and so did my wife, so we spent money like crazy during the holidays. And Christmas debt became a way of life. Because we feared not being loved. And we rationalized that I could always work overtime to pay off the credit cards. But one year our Christmas debt grew so large that we couldn’t make the payments. So we filed for bankruptcy. Not long afterward we got divorced.
I found out years later that my kids would have been fine with a smaller pile of presents. They would have loved us even if there were none at all. Real love doesn’t depend on us giving each other material things. I learned that lesson the hard way.
Today, I refuse to be influenced by the lie that buying gifts for someone equals loving them. That’s co-dependency. Spending your money on the bills, keeping the heat turned on and putting food on the table is just as valid a way to show people you love them. And it’s the financially responsible thing to do. There isn’t anything wrong with giving gifts, but no one should go into debt doing it. And it shouldn’t be done out of fear that someone won’t love you if you don’t.
Years of irresponsible spending trashed my credit. My second wife and I live life under a new set of rules. We pay our bills first and we pay them on time. Just a few years of paying down our existing debt and not piling on more has given me a credit score a lot of people would envy.
I’m happy to report that my kids have learned their lesson, too. My daughter struggled a bit financially, after graduating, but now she’s on a path to financial independence. Part of her success is due to advice she’s gotten from her twin brother.
My son Daniel works as a financial planner with Thrivent, a Christian non-profit company that provides financial planning. He’s helped a lot of people get their finances under control, including me and my wife. I like the fact that he’s helping people learn to manage their money responsibly. And I like that he works for a Christian company whose profits go back into the community. (If you’d like to chat with my son about your financial situation, you can contact him through this link: Daniel Hayes at Thrivent )
If the things you’re doing now aren’t producing the kind of results you want, it might be time to make a change. Maybe this will be the year you break free of Christmas debt. I hope your Christmas is blessed and I’m praying that next year will bring great financial increase.