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Avoiding Christmas Financial Disasters

Posted on December 9, 2010

(Editor's Note: Jeremy L. White is a Certified Public Accountant and has authored several books with Ron Blue regarding finances including Surviving Financial Meltdown, Your Kids Can Master Their Money and Faith-Based Family Finances.)

The time of joy at Christmas often turns into a time of financial stress. In my financial career, I've observed these typical financial mistakes at Christmas (OK, I'll admit it. Not just "observed" these, but made these mistakes too):

(1)      Giving too many presents - especially to children. Admittedly, I don't remember being concerned about this as a child, but I now see that children receive so much from so many different sources. Most Americans have too much stuff already. We have to buy containers, expand garages, and rent storage to keep all of our stuff.

(2)      Giving the wrong items. We often buy things that are useless, meaningless, or frivolous. People desire connecting through relationships, not more material items. See the gift ideas below for gifts of meaning.

(3)      Giving too little to missions or charities. If you totaled up your gift expenditures, how would that compare to what you gave to the church mission offering or to the food pantry ministry in town?

(4)      Giving to too many people. Gift exchanges at work or at the Sunday School party cause more outlays, more shopping, and more stress.

(5)      Borrowing on credit cards to purchase gifts. From giving too much to too many, people often use credit. This causes stress after the Christmas holidays. Are you really helping your kids' future by borrowing on credit to buy the toys of today? Most parents are behind on their college savings plans but on track to have full closets and attics.

Please don't think that I'm Scrooge-like or thoughtless.  I applaud, as does the Bible, generous giving.  It's just that many of us can do better at Christmas. Here are a few ideas to begin your creative thinking of meaningful gifts.

* Write and frame a tribute of praise to someone.
* Have your kids make memorable presents for relatives.
* Give your children a coupon for a half-day with you (they choose the activity).
* Give a coupon to offer babysitting, lawn, or laundry services to someone.
* Write a poem for poetry lovers or compose and perform a song for music lovers.
* Contribute money to a church, mission, or charity in honor of someone.

Jeremy L. White
Board Member
Men Who Win

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