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Twas the night before Christmas. After a long day’s drive, our adult children met us at my parent’s home in Nashville. It had been months since we were all together. We had a nice dinner and enjoyed opening beautifully wrapped gifts. Later that night the children were all snug in their beds while visions of new clothes, new boots, electronics and cash danced in their heads. When on my night stand my I-phone arose with a clatter! I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter! I tore open the email and clicked the inbox.  When what to my wandering eyes should appear? The VISA bill.

More rapid than eagles the email it came. The bill whistled and shouted and called them by name: Christmas Gifts! Stocking Stuffers!  Gift Wrappings! Holiday Outfits! Parties! Decorations! Additional groceries! Travel! Pet sitting!

Unfortunately in our culture, Christmas has become a time of commercialism, stress, and over spending with expectations of creating the perfect holiday. Here are some of the sad statistics regarding Holiday spending:

  • According to the National Retail Federation, the average household spends $730 on gifts, decorations and other holiday purchases.
  • According to an article by NBC news, some 45% of those polled said the holiday season brings so much financial pressure, they would prefer to skip it altogether. Almost half said their level of stress related to holiday expenses is high or extremely high.
  • According to Consumer Reports, shopping with credit cards during the holidays often leads to overspending by an average of 16%. This is part of the reason that the same Consumer Reports survey revealed that 13.6 million Americans were still paying off holiday purchases from 2009 in November of 2010.

Unfortunately, the joyful Christmas season can turn into a long season of regret and resentment. Over spending and debt weighs us down emotionally and causes stress and worry. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower is a slave to the lender.”

Fortunately, my Christmas Eve had a happy ending. With a wink of my eye and a twist of my head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread! Many years ago, my husband and I learned a valuable lesson. Each January, we calculate a reasonable and realistic amount needed for the holidays. We divide that by 12 and begin to tuck that amount away each month. By the time November comes we pay cash out of our Christmas envelope and treat online purchases like cash. Once the money is gone, the spending stops.

Here are some tips to a debt-free Christmas:

  • Plan early. Set your budget now and stick to it. Include all holiday related expenses.
  • Make a list. Write down the names of every person you will purchase a gift for and assign a budgeted amount.
  • Start saving monthly.
  • Place your holiday cash in an envelope. Separate out the cash needed for online purchases so the bill can be paid in full when it arrives.

Like many, we want to give our family a nice Christmas while being good stewards of what God has given us. My desire is to simplify. As Christians, our focus should be on the worship and celebration of the birth of our Savior. Eliminating holiday debt brings joy and peace. It helps us to be content with what we have. Let’s honor Jesus’ birthday by being good stewards for Him. Then, we can all say, “HAPPY 2015 CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!”

Reference:   “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, Clement Clarke Moore, 1822.