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Is Credit Card Debt your Ghost of Christmas Past?

Posted by idawrites on December 14, 2009 in Christmas, Debt, Gifts |

Here we are again, 10 days until Christmas. You’re filled with stress and dread. It’s not like you just have money to toss around. What you DO have is an arm long list of people counting on you to deliver on the 25th. Every single time you think about cutting back this Christmas, you get this horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s just not in you to disappoint your kids or your partner(s) or your family members. So, you whip out the card. Yes, that one, the card that still has the balance from last year’s gifts .. hell maybe a little from the year before too. Before that, you may have even taken out a home equity loan on the house so that you could come through, so maybe you’re paying for Christmases WAY past.

Is this your story? Is it the story of someone you know, perhaps? Your dad, sister, 2nd cousin twice removed? It used to be our family story.

The Christmas I was 13, we were absolutely dead poor. My mom was a jobless single mom of 4 children. Yet, somehow, on that Christmas morning we ended up having a stunning amount of gifts. That was the year two of my brothers each received their push pedal go-carts and one brother got a bike. I received a gorgeous new white canopy bed.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many years my mother made installment payments to Heilig Meyers for those gifts.  I CAN tell you that it was far longer than the next Christmas or two.  Longer than it took the tires and chains to go bad on those go carts.

It’s probably too late to put a halt to the new balances on those old faithful credit cards.  But it’s not too late to change how this works for next year and every year after.  It’s not complicated to do, I promise.  There will always be a MILLION excuses for why you can’t do it.  I promise you that too.  But it’s worth it.  Your peace of mind is worth it.  Your Christmas Spirit is totally worth it.

Before January 1st rolls around, decide to start saving for next Christmas.  How much did you spend this year?  Yes, you really do need to know that number.  Decide if that’s how much you want to spend next year.  If not, figure out how much you DO want to spend next year.  Divide it by the number of months (or paychecks) between now and next Christmas.  Save that amount out of every single paycheck and put it into your savings account or jar (see below).  If you can do that little bit every single year, you won’t ever have to face the Ghost of Past Christmas Debt again.

Don’t know where do you start?  Getting started is always the hardest part.  So start easy on yourself.

Save your pennies:

  • Get a mason jar or a piggy bank or a big glass flower vase (that’s what I use) and set it on your dresser.  Label the jar Christmas Fund!  Don’t take a single penny out of it until it’s time to go Christmas shopping.  At the end of the day, put all of your loose change in it.
  • Never walk past money lying on the ground, even pennies.  They add up (and who couldn’t use an extra bit of stretching?) over time.  Bend over and pick them up. Put them in your jar.
  • Clean out your purse or car change tray every week. Put it in the jar.
  • Pick up aluminum cans while you walk the dog. Crush them and drop them into a bag in the garage or back porch. Once a month, cash them in and put the proceeds in your jar.
  • Wherever you find extra money in small bits, just put it in the jar. Don’t let it run through your fingers. Give it a job.

There is more to this suggestion than just saving up change during the course of the year to pay for Christmas. It’s a nudge in the right direction. Digging out of debt is not easy, but as long as you get started and keep moving in the right direction, you will eventually get there. Just start.

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