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December 18, 2009

Enjoy Christmas debt free

Rob Peter to pay Paul. This saying dates back to John Wycliffe's 'Select English Works,' (1382).

Its message is as clear and important today as it was centuries ago. In today’s world, especially during the holiday season, it translates into “DON’T buy what you can’t afford.”

That seems like pretty simple advice. But, like many things nowadays, people try to find “wiggle room.” There seems to be confusion about what a person “can afford.” Having credit limit remaining on your credit card doesn’t equate that you “can afford” it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself: Are you running on-going balances on any consumer credit cards? Are you getting pay-day advances? Are you worried at the end of the month whether you will be able to pay your bills?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these (even just one), then you can’t afford it.

You need to get your financial house in order before you worry about what gifts to buy everyone. Your friends and families do not want you to go into debt buying them a gift. If they do, maybe you should rethink who you spend your time with.

Now I’m sure you are saying, “that is all well and good, but it is Christmas." I agree.

It is Christmas, and it is the season of giving. But, you can give with your financial health in mind. Here are some tips. Make a list of whom you are planning to give a gift. Consider shortening the list you just made. Decide how much you can spend on each person, and consider specific gifts that would be appropriate.

Follow your list when you visit the stores. Don’t deviate from the list unless it is in your financial interest to do so. Watch for sales, but don’t buy stuff just because it is on sale. Don’t let “doorbusters” distract you from your list.

Pay with cash. Take a certain amount of cash with you and when it is gone, you’re finished. Consider gifts of the heart. Making gifts such as cookies or craft-items and gifts of time are precious beyond money.

In addition to saving money on your Christmas shopping, consider earning some extra money to spend on gifts. Consider working overtime, starting a part-time job, doing odd jobs such as baby-sitting, leaf raking, or housecleaning. Sell things you have but no longer want online, in the classifieds, or a yard sale.

Many people can go along with these tips, but are hesitant when it comes to their children, especially if they have young children. Well, consider this. You could spend $400 on the newest game console for your child to sit in their room to play for hours by themselves OR you could spend $70 on a bicycle for your child and ride with them to the park every Saturday morning throughout the year. Your child wants to spend time with you. They don’t want to hear you arguing about the bills in January.

Spend time with your children, your spouse, and your loved ones. Talk to them. Listen to them. Thirty years from now, what will be most remembered by your children—their all-time high bowling score on their game system or their special Saturdays mornings spent with their parents at the park?

There is something to be said for stress-free, quality time that encourages communication, togetherness, and healthy living. Wouldn’t that be the greatest gift to give and to receive?

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