Several months have passed since the holiday season, and my credit card bills are flowing in to the mailbox. The festivities have faded and the gifts have been unwrapped—but staring me in the face are the charges that I recklessly mounted up in efforts to find those “perfect gifts” for everyone on my “list.” Sadly, I gave myself a pep talk before I started shopping, but I got caught up in the frenzy and now feel so foolish. I really want to do better, but it seems that I keep digging a deeper financial hole that I can’t get out of anytime soon. I feel so guilty and desperately need advice so I don’t keep repeating this vicious cycle.
Dear Financially Frazzled,
We often hear the phrase “Hindsight is 20/20.” Too late we reflect on the steps we took to land us in troubling predicaments. But don’t despair! This is the perfect opportunity to make strategic changes that will help you make better choices in life. Whether you’re facing financial, health, or spiritual challenges, there is a providential plan in God’s Word that gives us assurance that help is on the way: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14, 15, NIV).
From the sound of your letter, I have no doubt that you want to make the necessary changes to move on from the spending trap. First and most important, set aside a special time to pray the above promise from 1 John. The steps that need to be taken will surely be made evident to you as you seek God in this area of concern.
Next, consider getting advice from a biblical financial counselor. According to personal financial advisers, the average household charges $1,300 on credit cards between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I am also including a few practical tips that everyone can benefit from to avoid the credit card trap:
1. Avoid-last minute shopping. It’s too tempting to swipe the plastic when you’re in a crunch for a quick gift.
2. Make a list and stick to it. Also, set a budget and track your spending.
3. Don’t shop at all! Be creative and make homemade gifts that will have a lot more meaning. Also, stores make everything look so beautiful at Christmastime, which tempts us to buy way more than we need. If we stay away from stores, we’ll spend less.
As for the current debt you have accrued, pay it off as soon as possible. Always pay more than the minimum, and refrain from eating out and enjoying other luxuries until the balance is paid. As you think about next Christmas, consider opening a holiday savings plan now with your credit union or bank.
When you put these principles into practice, you and your family will be miles ahead for the next holiday season, as well as better managers of money all year long!