The joy of Christmas quickly disappears when the credit card bills come and your final Christmas gift is the shock of how much your personal debt has piled up. You can't believe all of those gifts, cute little ornaments, and decorations could cost all that money. They seemed so inexpensive at the time. The sale was so great. The decoration was so cute. The little item that would make Christmas complete was only a few dollars. The bills come and you realize that you went into debt for things that will either spend 11 months in a box in the attic, or will be broken and discarded in a short time.
The credit card balances are more than you can pay off with one payment. You realize the interest will eat you up. The Christmas gift of debt will continue to be unwrapped for months, maybe even years to come. There can be feelings of guilt, frustration, anger, and depression. You may feel like throwing all of the glittery reminders of your impending debt disaster away. You promise yourself, never again. In order to break the cycle, you have to change your values, change your budgeting process, lose your pride and learn one new word, "No!"
Change your values. In your world of values you compare yourself, your worth, and your success to what you have and do in comparison to others. It is in the realm of these values that you are competitive. This is where you get hooked. For example, it may seem like all of your neighbors have expensive and elaborate yard and house decorations that light up the neighborhood. How they paid for them is immaterial. You know you can't afford them, but you just can't stand the fact that driving down the street, your house is dark with the exception of candles in the windows and a wreath on the door. You face the temptation to run out and purchase bigger and better decorations, forgetting that you can't afford it and that it will run up the electric bill. Another example is outgiving everyone you know. Yielding to the temptations to spend what you don't have automatically enters you in the contest for the biggest debt load on January 1. You have to develop a value system where your worth and success in life do not depend on the opinions of others, being like them, outspending them or getting one up on them.
Change your budgeting habits. If you don't budget-start! It's the discipline of budgeting and not the amount budgeted that is important. A budget is a way to take the resources you have now, and deploy them in such a way that you will have the resources you need down the road to do what you plan to do. A budget is not a system to pay bills. It is a system of financial planning to achieve your financial goals. A budget involves choices, cuts and sacrifices. Your church may have some financial experts that can help you set up a budget . There are on line financial planning sites as well as state and federal programs that can help you in budgeting. There is no quick fix to your spending and debt problems. Budgeting is the big first step to getting out of debt and controlling spending.
Lose your pride. When the Christmas bills roll in, you may discover that they are compounding your existing debt. You can barely keep up with even the minimum payments. You may find yourself unable to pay and starting to get behind in payments, adding late charges to the debt. This can hurt your credit rating and possibly create legal problems for you. If you get to this position, let go of your pride and immediately seek help. This is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. There are credit counseling agencies that work with people and creditors to reduce payments and interest rates. Do research to see how they work and how they are rated. Some are non-profit and some have fees. Be sure to inquire as to how participating in their program could affect your credit rating. When you realize your debt is a problem, lose your pride and get help.
Finally, learn one word. "NO!" It is easy to say and hard to do. When tempted to step outside of your budget say "No!" When tempted to buy something because you "just have to have it to be complete (and competitive)", say "No!" Using a simple file label, you can create a personal resource to help reinforce the word, "No!" Type or print the word, "NO!!" on an address label in big bold letters. An alternative label message is, "CAN I AFFORD TO PAY FOR THIS OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS WITH INTEREST?" Put the label on the front of your credit card. Put it on the card. An alternative to putting the label on the card is to get a cardboard sleeve to keep the card in and put the label on the sleeve. When you try to use your card, the message can cause you to pause and think.
Uncontrolled credit card spending at Christmas can create the gift of debt that you can be opening for years as you open the monthly bills. Draw the line now. Change your values, develop good budgeting habits, lose your pride, and learn to say, "No!"