Avoiding Holiday Debt Hangover

Why Give Gifts During the Holidays?

Yes, we live in a consumer society. Our economy would screech to a halt if, en masse, we did not heed the marketing call of the multi-tentacled beast known as … Retail Store.

And, once called, how may we possibly resist? Especially during Christmukkah (this year, 2016, Christmas and Hanukkah overlap so, to the dismay of purists, and the delight of Retail Store, the two holidays are teaming up in an effort to generate a power boost for the economy. My sense, call me naïve, is that conspiring corporate minds are behind the scheme).

The question is not how may we resist but why would we resist? My Buddha, there are gifts to be gotten! Family members, friends, co-workers, teachers, and endless others are counting on us. Because, because, because … this is what we do for others, and what we require of our self. For religious or secular reasons, or simply because gift giving during these holidays is our custom, we do not pause to question. And what’s wrong with that? Gift giving is a self less act. An act of kindness, generosity and goodwill. At this time of year, aren’t we entitled to simply buy without restraint, and take a break from psychoanalyzing our motives?

jingle-bells


Enter Buddha

Be conscious of, and understand, your actions. Know the reasons for doing what you do. Once there is understanding, you free your self of your own, and others, expectations.


Holiday Hangover

Okay, here’s what I’m getting at: do you know how much you spend during the holidays? Can you afford all the gifts? If you answer yes, and your finances will not be worse for wear come the New Year, then good for you. But if you’re in the ‘no’ camp, or say something along the lines of, ‘that’s what credit cards are for’, then I’m here to ask you to please REMOVE YOUR HEAD FROM THE SAND at your earliest convenience.

Kindness, generosity and goodwill must extend to your Self as well as others (for those who interpret my words as meaning you should buy your self gifts, hang in there, I’m about to explain myself better). This means not spending what you cannot afford. Why? Because breaking your budget means you’ll be visited by the Angel of Suffering not too long after the pretty lights come down or the last latke is eaten (lat-ke. Noun. Potato pancake fried in way too much oil, heavily salted, yummy taste, eat too many and arteries revolt).

And to be perfectly clear, if you have to make purchases using a credit card, knowing you will not be able to pay the balance in full by the due date, then this puts you in the ranks of Cannot Afford.

Not having enough money to buy all the gifts that you want is not an issue. Rather, the issue arises when you pretend to be in the Can Afford ranks. Because when you don’t celebrate the holidays within your financial means, the merry season is bound to end gloomy. What happens then? Suffering. And this suffering typically lasts a whole lot longer than a spiked eggnog high.

Once we’ve come down from the toasty endorphin rush that accompanies buying Stuff, and are confronted with the cold reality of a large bill that must be paid in full by the due date otherwise we’ll be charged interest at the prevailing rate as set out in the government approved Credit Card Mafioso Humungous Interest Charge the Sucker Law, we kinda feel … awful.

Our self-esteem takes a hit. We get anxious. Maybe we fall into panic once we’re past the denial stage and admit to our self that our debt has gone up. Again. And we don’t know when or how we’re going to pay it off. And we feel anything but jolly and free. No, just the opposite. Debt is prison.

Middle Way

Buy now, pay later. That’s what we’re sold on, not just during the holidays but all throughout the year. Sure, spending, consuming, benefits Retail Store and the general economy, but is it good for you?

I’m not going to get into what the holidays are all about, because that would be veering too far off the BuddhaMoney path. But I can tell you this: even if the primary purpose of the holidays is gift giving, this has to be done within budgetary constraints. Your budget. And your budget cannot include borrowing to buy gifts. It cannot include falling into debt. Because you will do too much damage to your self.

Think about it this way: when you borrow, you are taking what is not yours. You are taking from your future self; throwing the shackles of debt on to your future self. Why would you do that? Because it’s the holidays and you’ve told your self a story that supports your feeling of entitlement to buy what you want? Because you’ll punt the issue a month down the road, and let future self worry about debt and the accompanying ulcer? Because spending money you don’t have is ‘normal’ during the holidays? Because everyone you know carries debt?

Listen, anyone who cares about you would never accept a gift knowing it would cause you harm. That’s what debt is, financial and spiritual harm. But if we’re not spending money on gifts during the holidays, or giving what we feel are inadequate gifts, what should we do?


Enter Buddha

You are loved for who you are. Knowing how to touch the heart of another, and be touched, is the true gift. Your possessions, your roles, your achievements, your presents, are not you; these are but props, not evidence of your worth.


Hmmm. If you cannot afford to participate in Retail Store mania, give the gift of your self, your time and positive energy. Now there’s an idea. Maybe even priceless. Or, you do what you need to limit spending within a pre-set budget. Doing so avoids the holiday hangover, the terrible stress that comes part and parcel with debt. And just maybe the holidays will be that much more enjoyable this time around.