It’s time to free yourself from the guilt you feel when you don’t want—or can’t—buy a Christmas gift for every person in your extended family.
I was slightly shocked when this subject came up a last week in my Financial Peace class. One member was relating how they’ve attempted for a couple of years to just draw names for extended family one or two nice presents rather than going out purchasing a gift for every one—all the way down to the newborns! She then told us how they had budgeted $20 per family member for Christmas gifts.
That amount of money took my breath away.
I have no idea how many people they’re going to be purchasing gifts for, but at bare minimum I think it’s probably in the realm of 10-15. That means they’ll be spending $200-300 on Christmas presents for extended family alone. This doesn’t cover immediate family where I imagine they’ll spend much more per person. I wouldn’t be surprised if their total Christmas gift outlay will sit somewhere between $500-750 this season.
I know for some of you that doesn’t sound like a ton of money to spend on Christmas presents, but when you’re working to get yourself out of debt, that money would likely cover 2-3 months worth of credit card payments, a pair of car payments, or allow you to get a month ahead or more on students loans.
I understand the pressure to buy presents for family members. In some families it’s expected, and depending on the love language spoken by individual family members, not receiving a present might be perceived as a lack of love. Even this family I’m speaking of—who is doing a great job getting themselves out of debt and paying cash for Christmas gifts—is giving in to the pressure to conform to cultural consumerism.
It’s time to stand your ground and have a talk with your family members, even if you’re afraid they’ll be offended. It’s probably too late for this year, but let them know that until you’re out of debt, you won’t be buying presents for anyone outside your immediate family. Let them know that this situation is temporary so that you can get out of debt faster. One day you’ll be debt free and have more disposable cash available to buy Christmas presents once more.
Hear me clearly. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy Christmas presents if you want. You just need to stop feeling obligated and guilted into doing so.
And even when you’re out of debt, keep control of your spending and budget for Christmas in light of your long-term goals and dreams. Just remind yourself that every dollar spent on a Christmas gift that will probably get throw away in less than six months is a dollar you can’t apply to retirement, college savings, your emergency fund, or paying off your house early.
And not to sound sanctimonious, but think about the life lessons you’re teaching your children. Do you want them to buy into consumerism this time of year, or would you rather they treasure what’s truly important?
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.