The holidays are supposed to be times of happiness and joy, but for some, that happiness comes with a great big price tag and frequently with a side of significant debt. According to CNBC, also known as the billionaires’ news channel, holiday spending statistics indicate a rise this year by about 5% and 50% of consumers had already begun their holiday shopping by September. Apparently putting out the Christmas decorations shortly after Labor Day has a positive effect. Despite an uneven economy, consumers are optimistic and this will fuel a shopping bonanza for both online and bricks and mortar stores.
For some people, this is a trying time of year. There are a lot of cultural expectations about how Christmas should be done. This includes extravagant gift-giving, specialized decor, travel expenses, and loads of delicious food. There’s a lot of pressure for people of modest means to have a reality TV-style extravagant Christmas. However, those of us who must live in the real world understand that going into debt for the holiday does not make the Yuletide bright – instead, it loads even more debt onto credit cards, into personal loans, and loads more stress into an already stressful season.
It’s no secret, we live in a very materialistic society. There is always the must-have toy, the must-have sneakers, the must-have for kids, and the must-have for adults. It can be difficult to explain to young children that they won’t be getting the latest iPhone 11 or those $500 Yeezy sneakers, but it is a conversation that needs to be had. For those without kids, but with significant debt, there is the expectation that being footloose and fancy-free also means having a lot of disposable income. It may be true for some, but not for many. So, when the pressure is on to live up to expectations, it’s time to step back and take a clear look at your finances before committing to an extravagance that you can’t afford.
Investopedia notes that in almost every year since 2008, Americans spend more money each year on holiday gifts. The average expected spend for this year is $920 for a total retail take of around $1 trillion. All told 55% of people surveyed expected to disperse between $500 and $1,000 on gifts – and again, that is not counting food, travel, holiday clothing, or other expenses. If you look at that and do the math, then feel queasy about your credit card balances, we don’t blame you. Let’s talk about how to have a realistic Christmas and how to knock out your debt so that the next holiday is a Holly Jolly one.
You might think, “I can do that after the holiday. I don’t want to ruin a good time.” My argument for doing it now is simple; if you do it now, and have a practical holiday, you will have paid off your debt sooner and accrued less debt in pursuit of a picture-perfect Christmas. By using a variety of online financial calculators to determine your freedom date from student loans, credit card debt, and other forms of personal debt. Then apply the snowflake, snowball, and avalanche methods to knocking debt down to size.
Managing the Christmas without loading up on even more debt takes some work. First, you can peer down that giving list to the people that really matter. Nobody expects you to give the cut to immediate family, very good friends, or very important clients. However, you can safely cut great aunt Sadie’s second cousin or other people with whom you have a pleasant but distant relationship. Trimming the list down to the bare essentials can remove hundreds of dollars of gifts, and reserve it for your nearest and dearest.
Another good trick for managing holiday expenses is to make use of layaway. Walmart famously offers layaway starting in September, so that big screen that you wanted can be in-house by Christmas Eve. Other methods include purchasing gift cards and saving them until the holiday shopping season starts or using gift cards to stay within a gift-giving budget. Finally, try making instead of buying. Homemade and handmade gifts can be welcome and remembered long after the latest and greatest from Amazon has been forgotten and discarded.
Getting a grip on your debts can be scary. You may have had no idea that you owe that much, or that the interest payments were so high. When those holiday spending statistics look like they’re going to give you a blue Christmas, it might be time to talk to an attorney about your options when it comes to bankruptcy, consolidation, or other options. It is vitally important to get on top of your debt, not just for your credit score, but for your health. That much stress about simply meeting minimum payments while trying to have a lavish Christmas not only detract from the enjoyment you should feel around the holidays but can also negatively impact your physical and mental health.
Holiday spending statistics don’t face us. We understand how real people have to live and budget. When you are in deep and think you may be over your head, it’s time to talk to one of our experienced attorneys about your debt. We have lots of different options to tell you about, and we can also help you with obstreperous debt collectors, wrongful student loan collections, and other issues. Our Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach offices are open Monday through Saturday. We welcome walk-ins, and we will even open on Sunday with an appointment.
Our attorneys and staff care about all of our clients and work hard to ensure a good outcome. Bring your worries and your debts to us and let us show you your Christmas future.
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