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Stop Putting Kids Christmas List on a Credit Card - Money, Guilt, and Gifts, Part One

by Team Sammy

Thank You 

Big Sammy Rabbit gratitude for today's guest column by Kirby Williams, President and Publishing Director, Advantage Publications.

Discover more about Kirby and her mission on the Advantage Publications website.

Record Debt Means Record Interest Payments

Americans are spending money that they and their children do not have.

That is not news. It has been happening consistently since the sixties.

What is news? The record absurdity of the mountains of debt being incurred and the accompanying interest payments that come with it.

According to the US Government Accountability Office, American consumer credit card debt exceeded 1 trillion dollars in the summer of 2023.[1] Believe it or not, this amounts to over $3,000 per person in the United States, including teens, children, and babies. While the teens, children, and babies may not be personally responsible for this debt at the moment, its consequences have an impact on them.

Black Friday or Red Friday?

This year's Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend spending, facilitated by Buy Now, Pay Later services such as Affirm, Klarna, and Afterpay, reached an estimated $7.3 billion, according to Adobe.[2] What's truly remarkable is that this spending surge occurred despite the simultaneous increase in credit card interest rates and the overall inflation impacting the costs of essentials, from groceries to toys!

Americans are increasingly turning to credit and tools like Buy Now, Pay Later, opting for flexibility in payment plans and the allure of credit card rewards. However, there's a concern that some are resorting to these options not out of choice, but out of necessity due to a lack of available cash for basic needs or gifts.

Mind boggling, isn't it?

One drawback of the Buy Now, Pay Later approach, among other concerns, is that individuals often lack clarity on 'how long later' they will be making payments.

Good Intentions and Bad Results

As parents, we naturally desire the best for our children, but our well-intentioned aspirations can become overwhelming during the holiday season. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook bombard us with images and stories, suggesting that everyone—from our favorite influencers to the kids in our neighborhood—will be showered with abundant gifts. Holiday cards, whether sent digitally or by mail, showcase families donning new matching holiday pajamas (even the pets are included) or enjoying beach vacations. Meanwhile, letters to Santa are filled with requests for the latest Lego sets, Nintendo games, or Sephora goodies.

Striving to give our children 'the best' can feel like an endless checklist, especially when we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, a tendency that looms large during this festive season. Some of this 'comparison-itis' stems from good intentions—we want to ensure our kids don't feel left out. Perhaps, on a deeper level, we also seek inclusion in the holiday parade of purchases for ourselves.

Adding to the mental load for parents is the looming guilt that arises from the notion that if we don't buy a, b, and c presents, or provide identical experiences, we have somehow failed to give our kids the complete holiday experience. This guilt is compounded by any day-to-day feelings of remorse, such as missed childhood experiences during the pandemic or the desire to be present at every recital, game, celebration, and school event. All of these factors create a recipe for overcompensation through excessive spending.

Prioritizing Financial Peace in January  

This holiday season, I found myself tumbling down the proverbial rabbit hole of holiday shopping. Taking a moment to reflect, I scrutinized the myriad 'should-dos and should-buys' that typically accompany this time of year.

In an effort to regain control, I made conscious decisions like forgoing expensive printed holiday cards, opting to use an existing wreath instead of splurging on a new one, and crafting teacher gifts instead of resorting to store-bought options like plants or mugs. I redirected my time and resources towards creating personalized calendars for the grandparents, featuring photos of my son as their primary gift. Recognizing the temptation of enticing online sales, I unsubscribed from websites that urged me to indulge in unnecessary purchases—whether it be another sweater or pair of earrings. Importantly, this wasn't just a matter of desire; it was a financial decision aligned with my budgetary constraints.

Prioritizing financial peace, not just for the holidays but also for the months ahead, became my guiding principle.

Stepping back and evaluating the aspects of the holidays that truly bring joy versus those that feel obligatory due to societal pressures, I discovered that making our celebrations more affordable was surprisingly straightforward.

However, I spoke too soon—I hadn't yet tackled the shopping for my son.

The festive season presents ample temptation to overspend, and while saying no to excess in some areas may seem straightforward, it's equally easy to justify overspending on those closest to us. In the next article of this series, we'll delve into strategies to help navigate the emotional landscape of making purchases. Meanwhile, as wish lists evolve and last-minute sales, emails, and social media posts flood our inboxes, it's crucial to ask: are you buying because you genuinely want to, and it aligns with your budget, or because you feel obligated to do so?

STAY tuned for Part Two of the series. And be sure to have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!

Articles Referenced in Columns

  1. US Government Accountability Office debt statistics:

  2. Investopedia article on Black Friday Spending:

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