Ho-Ho-Holy Bills!..

Dear Santa
Image by Kelly Sims via Flickr

Dear Santa,

I’d really love a Super Mega Video-pod phone for Christmas.


An 8 year old child.

Does this sound like something on your child’s Christmas list?  Maybe it isn’t a high tech gadget, but a bank breaking clothing item, a concert ticket, or a toy.  Chances are, kids and parents alike will be asking for things this Christmas that “Santa”, their families, or their loved ones can’t afford, but will buy.  Where did we go wrong with gift giving?

What’s hurting America today isn’t taxes.  It isn’t government, unemployment, or too much or too little religion.  What’s hurting America today is our inability to live within our means.  Everyone seems to be on a quest for “more”.  The fastest internet phone, the clearest picture TV with the biggest screen and the thinnest dimensions, the most comfortable shoes, or the coolest purse…we’ve become addicted to the “est”, and we’ve given up on our ability to financially plan in a realistic manner.

It’s too late for our parents.  They’re riding the crest of the wave of issues that will be falling down upon us and our children.  It’s starting to crash at our shores, and if we don’t act soon, we’ll all be washed away.  In fact, it may even be too late for us as adults..but it’s not too late for our children.  We need to show them better examples of living within our means.  Life shouldn’t be about putting everything on credit and “what kind of payment plan does that come with?” mentality.  It should be about realizing your actual spending limits and living within them.  You don’t NEED that TV.  You don’t NEED that awesome new video game.  You want it.  Wanting and having is okay, if you have the realistic means to acquire those goods, but credit isn’t the answer. In the grand scheme of things, credit is bad all around.

Have you ever seen a sign at a gas station that says, “minimum charge amount is $5”?  That’s because everyone that accepts credit cards has to pay a yearly percentage of their sales back to credit card companies.  (By the way, from a business perspective, a bank card with a Visa or MasterCard symbol is counted as a credit card if you just swipe and sign).  On the flipside, consumers are faced with increasing credit card interest rates every year, so the credit companies are making money from both sides.  Some retailers have seen the damage that credit card spending can do to their bottom line and are now offering a 1%-2% instant discount on your purchases if you use your bank card as a debit card (where you punch your pin rather than just swipe and sign).  If you can’t afford it and you don’t need it, don’t buy it. It’s hard, I know.  I am a techy guy who salivates at the idea of some new kind of cell phone.  I love them..and yet, I know I can’t buy the latest one whenever it comes out and that I have to enjoy the one I have until my contract is up and I can afford a new one.

If we all watch our spending wisely and spend our money on the things we need, we can have a very positive effect on the economy.  Consumer confidence levels are at an all time low for things like purchasing a home.  Why?  Because we’re so stuffed with bills that we’re afraid to make a large purchase..because if we lose our jobs, we’ll have too many bills.  Bills, bills, bills.  Less bills means more happiness.  More happiness means more confidence.  More confidence (coupled with buying the NEEDS and not the WANTS) means a better economy.  Get rid of those credit cards as fast as possible (even if it means going out less or buying less stuff), and you’ll see how much happier you become when you aren’t dealing with bills every month.

If you do have a long list of wants this season, try balancing them with charitable donations as well.  If you want to buy yourself a new pair of shoes this season, try also giving half of that amount to a charity as well.  You’ll be giving..and getting at the same time. If you’re not the charity-giving person I feel we all should be, take this time of year to give yourself an excuse to help those in need.

All in all, we have some work to do to ensure our future is a little brighter and a little more merry year round, not just the winter holiday season.