Money sure causes people a lot of problems. Statistics tell us that, but we know it already. We know the struggles we’ve had with money in our own lives. And we are probably aware of at least some of the struggles that other people we know have had with money as well.
I probably don’t have to tell you that even people who look like they have a lot of money may not have much (or any) at all. What they may have is simply debt and lots of it. There’s a lot of truth to the old adage that a person who drives an expensive car isn’t telling you how much money they have; they are telling you how much money they no longer have.
With that in mind, over the next few days I’ll be offering some thoughts on holiday season spending. I realize that some of you have already finished your holiday shopping, and I’m guessing that if you planned that well ahead, you probably do a pretty good job of planning your finances as well. But for the rest of you who are like me and may not have even started your shopping yet, here are a few suggestions that may be worth thinking about.
First, set a budget for gift giving—and keep it! The big mistake that so many people make—that Linda and I have made—is to start with a list of things you know people want, or that you want to give them, and then simply start buying them. Let’s face it; it’s awfully easy to spend these days. You don’t even have to get out of your chair; you just go on line and push a button. And that will likely result in other suggestions as to things you might like to buy, and those suggestions will probably be pretty good because some very smart people have spent a lot of time studying your spending habits.
It’s easy to get carried away, and we all know what happens when we do. We join the huge numbers of people who spend way too much, and then come to January with a credit-card bill that could sink the Titanic.
The alternative is to work out what you can afford before you start shopping. And I’d suggest that the people who have the best Christmases set their budget according to their values. What’s a better gift: an expensive toy a child will forget in few days (hours? minutes?), or helping them learn a lesson about limits, boundaries, and what is most important that will serve them well their whole life long?