Merry Upside-Down Christmas!

Mortgages are not the only thing found upside-down this holiday season. Much of what lies under the Christmas tree is not paid for, and will lose all value as the box is ripped open or tags and labels are discarded along with the gift wrapping and other detritus.

Half a century ago it was commonplace to carefully unwrap gifts and gently fold the paper so it could be re-used. Throughout the middle class, children mostly received clothing, because holiday gift-giving served as an excuse to replenish basic necessities. With meager resources quickly exhausted, parents gave each other ‘promissory notes’ in place of the actual gifts—an exchange that anticipated a brighter future.

Indeed, a brighter future emerged; maybe not year to year, but over the course of decades. But be careful what you ask for. Layaway and Christmas Club accounts went the way of the dinosaur. Pre-saving strategies were replaced by revolving credit accounts, which evolved into ‘making the minimum payment’ on seemingly permanent credit card balances.

Gift giving has evolved as well.

Recycled gift wrap brought back fond memories. Any gift exceeding basic necessities was thankfully received due to the sacrifice it incurred. And gifts were treasured due to scarcity—Christmas and birthdays each occurring only once a year.
Though there are exceptions, modern gifts that create the most clamor and anticipation lose their luster before children even return to school. Which works in the favor of merchandisers promoting after-Christmas Sales events. Delayed gratification (whether for child or adult) has been abbreviated from “Let’s wait and see what Santa Claus brings” (at Christmas) to “Let’s wait for it to go on sale” (year-round). Thankfulness and gratitude last mere minutes, morphing through boredom into a gnawing sense of deficiency defined by media messages that “you deserve” more, better, or merely something different.

So, Merry Upside-Down Christmas!

Credit card payments on Christmas gifts easily last well beyond the time they are consumed, discarded or placed in storage. Add up the recurring interest payments, and storage rental, and any money saved on Black Friday, or any other supposedly once-in-a-lifetime sale, appears to have simply been redirected to someone else’s pocket.

Or, Merry Renewed Christmas Tradition!

Make this the last Christmas you spend money you do not have on gifts that have no value for people (even children) lacking seasonally appropriate thankfulness. Make a commitment to celebrate Christmas only once a year. What “you deserve” is to be debt-free, and therefore in a more positive frame of mind to give and receive gifts with gratefulness and appreciation. The reciprocal responsibility is to help those around you to do the same. 

Give of your heart, your time, your love; give of your own talents. A gift from your heart is a true gift. A gift from your debt is really a gift from VISA, Mastercard or American Express. Christmas is about love, hope and sharing, not about getting deeper in debt. So, from now on celebrate Christmas rightside-up.

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