The average american family spent $820 on Christmas in 2015. If you’re already thinking about the holiday season and you’re worried about how to pay for everything you need to have a joyous time, I ran across an article that proposed a solution for you.
One of my favorite features of my phone is that it frequently recommends articles or news stories that I might be interested in. Usually there’s a good mix but the other day I got one that was a head-scratcher. I still can’t figure out why Google’s algorithms thought I’d be into this:
The holiday season is fast approaching. You want to buy presents for friends and family. Maybe you’ll travel out of town. Secret Santa gifts, postage for holiday and even wrapping paper add up. If you haven’t saved enough, but don’t want to charge the seasonal expenses to your credit card, here’s a possible solution for you: a holiday loan.
The article goes on to explain not only the reasons that a holiday loan is a “great” option but also the ways to get the best rate on one.
Surely, this is a joke, right?
How on earth can we possibly be in a state where this sounds reasonable to anyone?
All the Times a Holiday Loan is Warranted
Since this blog exists to share thoughts on personal finance and living an awesome life, I thought I’d help by providing a list of all times in which you should feel comfortable getting a holiday loan:
That’s not a typo. There aren’t any.
Seriously, I can’t think of one situation in which a holiday loan would be necessary or even a remotely reasonable idea.
Reason 1: If You Can Get Approved, You Shouldn’t Need It
One of the tips from the article is about checking your credit reports to make sure you get the best rate and to ensure that you improve your chances of getting approved.
Spend a minute thinking on that. In order to get a loan for the holidays, you need to demonstrate that you have the finances to pay it off.
You know what that says to me?
If you’ve got the credit score to get a holiday loan, then you’ve got the means to not need one
If you’ve proven yourself responsible enough to get approved for the loan, then you should be responsible enough to save up for holiday spending instead.
Reason 2: If You Need It, You Weren’t Prioritizing Right
If you’re at this point in the year and unclear on whether you can afford gifts for the holidays, then you should view this as a reflection of what you’ve been prioritizing throughout the year.
If gifts are really that important to you, you should have been saving for them already.
Taking out a loan at this point is only going to make your life harder in the future. You’ll have to add the interest cost into your monthly expenses and put yourself in an even worse situation for next year.
Please don’t let this be the start of a downward spiral for your finances.
Reason 3: That’s Not What The Holidays Are About
Allow me to go on a brief rant-in-a-rant here about the commercialization of Christmas.
Christmas isn’t about presents. It’s not about decorations or cookies or lights on your house. These aren’t bad things by themselves, but they’re not the purpose behind Christmas.
For Christians like me, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus.
I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t want you to go into more debt in the name of his birthday.
I’m pretty sure he’d rather we focus on celebrating his birth by showing how grateful we are for the gift he gave us (coming into this world and dying to save us).
For non-christians, Christmas is usually about about family and togetherness.
Neither of those views of Christmas is about buying crap that you and others don’t actually need.
If it’s supposed to be about togetherness with family and friends, then focus on being together with family and friends.
That shouldn’t be a several-thousand-dollar activity. Get on a bus, in a car, or invite people to you. Don’t try to live up to some artificial judgment that your love for one another is correlated to how much you spend on gifts.
You are not any greater or lesser based on the number of presents you buy for your friends and family.
If your focus is on loving one another, you’ll do alright without all the unnecessary gifts.
Reason 4: Your Kids will be Fine
At this point the last cry I hear is from people who don’t want their kids to have a “horrible Christmas.” If they can’t buy presents, their kids won’t get any.
The flawed premise is that a child’s well-being is determined by the presence or absence of toys
A child’s well-being is determined by the presence or absence of loving parents who attend to their needs.
Toys are not love. Your attention, your care, and your time are love.
Let’s be clear - I’m not anti-toys; we will be getting our kids a reasonable number of toys for the holidays.
We use the three gifts rule - each one of our children gets just three from us, matching the number of gifts that Jesus got at his birth. Beyond this we have each of our kids get each other kid one gift (typically from the Dollar Store for less than $5).
This way we can bring the message back to where it belongs and avoid cluttering our house with a ton of junk while still celebrating Christmas with a few thoughtful gifts.
If you want to get your kids toys but feel like you can’t afford them, here’s an option instead of a holiday loan: go sell one of your TV’s (or another passive time-sucker) and buy some used games or toys off Craigslist.
You can easily get $50 for a TV and with that money get some gently-used toys and games.
Games are a great way to spend quality time as a family, which is more what your kids really need.
For some good recommendations, check out this post at Brooklyn Bread listing their Top Five Picks for Family Game Night.
Just Say No
Don’t do it. Don’t put yourself in a worse situation for all the wrong reasons. Say no to holiday loans.
If you still feel like a holiday loan is the best option for you, contact me. Give me your reasons and I’d be happy to talk you off the ledge.
God bless and wishing you a happy, debt-free Christmas!
* Source for 2015 spending data (WorldAtlas)