Have you started saving for the holidays yet? Believe it or not, they’re right around the corner. And with the holidays come the crisis we love to hate – gift giving. Although we save throughout the year, it seems like we never have enough money to give the gifts we want to give. So we have some options: we could borrow the money we need to give the kind of gifts we want to give, we could limit our gift-giving to just the amount of money we have on hand, or we could not give anything. We’ve tried all three options at different times, and all three have their pros and cons.
Borrowing money to give gifts is the easiest way to meet the social expectation of giving. You’re going to receive a certain amount of gifts and you should give a similar amount. Borrowing money from your credit cards allows you to meet that obligation without any social pain. You look like a generous giver, and nobody has to know you’re now in debt. And that’s the negative side – debt. Borrowing money requires you to repay, and many people end up repaying well into the summer.
Or you could try limiting your spending on gifts to just the amount of money you currently have available. The advantage here is you incur no new debt – nothing to repay! The disadvantage, of course, is that you might not be giving as much as you’d like to give, or as much as you feel like you should give.
One year we didn’t have any money saved up, and we couldn’t borrow any, either. So we ended up not giving anything to anybody. Even if you’re at your counter-cultural, rebellious, anti-capitalism, hippie-loving best, I don’t recommend this choice. We ended up receiving gifts from people we knew weren’t any better off than we were, but we gave nothing in return. We felt ungrateful, unappreciative, and cheap.
So what should we do? What do you do? We have to give something, but don’t have the cash, and don’t have the desire to borrow. The best solution I can think of is to be more diligent about saving larger amounts throughout the year, but that’s a plan best implemented in January, not August. Does anybody else experience this dilemma? How do you work through it?
This article originally appeared in the August 22, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.