Updated: December 19, 2012 7:33AM
This week, people are entering the final crunch of holiday shopping — and many are spending much more than they can afford. Whenever you feel fear about spending money, that should be a sign that you’re spending money you don’t have, probably because you’re trying to impress people you don’t even know or like.
I don’t believe in gift-giving in the traditional sense; I like to make gifts, like homemade cookies, a letter expressing friendship and love, or a photo album with highlights of the time you spent with each other. One year the kids made me 1,000 green origami longevity cranes ... I loved that, and still have them. Every year we make our own holiday arrangement with scraps of evergreens, and make garlands from all kinds of found materials. It’s all fun! I like to remind people the real gifts we have to offer are joy, time and appreciation, and showing true love for others.
If you are buying something for somebody and you have to put it on your 21 percent credit card, and you can only pay the minimum payment due every time the billarrives, by the time you have really paid for that gift it could cost you triple the original price. So if you’re buying a $50 sweater, take a hard look at that sweater and know that it could cost you $150. Is it really worth it?
Now try this: Go up to people and ask them what they were given last year for Christmas. Watch the looks on their faces. I’m here to tell you chances are they will not even remember!
Buying gifts creates a cycle of stress. You’re buying a gift for somebody, which obligates them to buy a gift for you (and they probably can’t afford it, either).
This year, try something new: Get together with your friends, and decide not to buy each other gifts. Instead, if you’d like to commemorate the holiday, you can each put $10 into a fund and give it to a non-profit organization.
You might also want to go through your home and find everything that you haven’t used for the past year (or those items that still have price tags on them) and put them in the middle of your living room floor. Now, invite all your friends over to go through your pile of stuff that you no longer want but that they may absolutely love; your cast-offs could be somebody else’s treasure. Whatever remains can be donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Just make sure you keep track of the value of what you are donating so that if you itemize your taxes, you can get a tax write off. Now that’s Uncle Sam giving you a gift!
There are so many ways that you can make this holiday a financially enjoyable one, not only for you, but for others as well.
Merry Merry Christmas everyone,
Suze Orman donated her fee for writing this column to Blue Planet Network, which aims to bring sustainable safe drinking water to people in rural communities around the world; blueplanetnetwork.org.