The Grinch That Steals Thanksgiving and Christmas

Thanksgiving is less than a week away and it is followed by most anticipated shopping day of the year:  Black Friday.  This year retailers are so anxious to get your money that some of them will be open on Thanksgiving and the early morning hours of the day after Thanksgiving.  This means several hundreds of people across the country will have to leave their respective families to work cash registers, trucks, aisles, maintenance, stocking areas, shipping, and other facets of the retail supply chain.  In today’s challenging economic times it is good to have a job and perhaps many employees who will work this coming holiday weekend actually want to work—good for them.  I tend to believe, however, that there are a significant number of workers who would just as soon take the time off and enjoy a reprieve from the hectic phenomenon known as “holiday shopping“.  Many such workers feel compelled to work due to their own financial situations. 

Given the growing desire of stores and retailers to meet or beat their competition I am afraid that commercialism has become the grinch that darkens the holidays.  Note that virtually every American holiday has become synonymous with sales and promotions.  I am not against commercial endeavors—heck, I am a small business owner myself.  The thing I rue, however, is how the chase of earning money and/or spending money on material items frequently seems to dictate life around us.  There is a significant number of Americans who face tough economic situations due to overspending on mortgages, vehicles, or even buying things that were altogether unnecessary.  There are some people who seem to have lost the meaning of the holidays altogether. Comparing gifts, setting minimum spending limits on gifts, complaining about not receiving gifts—-now those evidence a humbug spirit if I ever heard one.  It appears the commercialism that has become associated with the holidays is now the tail wagging the dog.  Shopping and working [to pay for the shopping] are too often the parameters within which our time with loved ones is framed. 

 Using high-interest credit cards, payday loans, and other expensive forms of financing to pay for holiday gifts can be a recipe for disaster.  What joy and excitement may occur when a gift is given and opened could quickly evaporate when the holiday shopping bills arrive several weeks later.  And the mood will turn to frustration once a bill becomes delinquent and is turned over to collections.  At that point the giver of the gift could face negative credit reporting, collection calls, collection letters, and possibly even legal action to collect on the delinquent debt.  And some debt collectors can be quite aggressive including the use of illegal and unethical collection tactics.  (If you believe you have been subjected to unfair or harassing debt collection you need to seek legal counsel to review your situation and potential rights.)

I suppose there is no harm to partaking in the annual ritual of holiday shopping. If you work hard and earn money you deserve to be able to buy things for yourself and your family and friends.  And it is better to give than to receive.  Just remember that giving need not always be in the form of a purchase from a store or business.  Often the most valuable gifts you can give are your time and attention–and they do not require you to reach into your wallet, purse, or online bank account.  One positive thing about the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is that most employers afford employees some time away from their jobs.  This time, if well-utilized, can have a value well beyond what can be quantified in dollars and cents.

This post is not meant to dissuade anyone from holiday shopping.  Instead I seek to have everyone consider if he or she has the financial resources to comfortably afford the gifts and other expenditures to be made during the holiday season.  If so, more power to you.  As you spend remember the less fortunate and celebrate your blessings during the holiday season. 

I often hear people use the fragility of life as justification for spending money on items that are less-than-desirable given their financial picture.  “Tomorrow is not promised…”  I agree wholeheartedly that tomorrow is not promised and we must live each day to the fullest.  But… if tomorrow comes will you be prepared to meet the challenges without having created a financial roadblock?  Is overspending for Christmas gifts worth the prospect of having your vehicle repossessed for inability to make that January payment?  Spend responsibly so you can truly enjoy the holidays and the days beyond.  Don’t let holiday shopping and the bills that follow be the Grinch that steals your holiday joy.  Happy Thanksgiving and beyond….


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