BRADFORD, England — A
Christian debt-counseling charity in the United Kingdom is calling on people to
avoid using credit cards and loans to pay for their Christmas shopping this
Christians Against Poverty,
a ministry that advocates poverty relief through debt counseling advice and
practical help, warned Nov. 25 that poor Christmas shopping habits can burden
families with significant debt.
Matt Barlow, the charity’s
chief executive officer, said tough economic times can tempt shoppers to
rationalize “at least we’ll have a great Christmas” and use that as an excuse
“If you’ve already caught
yourself saying this, we want your alarm bells to be ringing loud and clear,”
Barlow said in a press release.
The charity’s research has
found that half of homes with out-of-control debt have at some time taken out a
loan to cover the cost of Christmas. That’s likely to get worse, Barlow said,
as economic uncertainties continue into the New Year.
“We’re not party poopers,”
he said. “We just want people to enjoy Christmas and not be anxious about
whether they will be able to pay it all back.”
CNBC has reported research finding that
a record 43 percent of American shoppers plan to spend less for Christmas this
year than they spent in 2009, compared to 11 percent who plan to spend
Christians Against Poverty
suggested 10 ideas for avoiding holiday debt:
- Decide what you have to
spend. Make a list and be realistic. Paying in cash may help you keep control.
- Manage expectations early.
If things are tight, don’t be afraid to say so to family members. They are
probably in the same boat.
- Suggest that relatives
pool expenses to buy children gifts they want instead of overindulging them
- Substitute expensive
decorations with things like paper chains and cookies that add to the fun
without costing much.
- Never take out a Christmas
loan. The consequences could be disastrous in terms of family debt.
- Give homemade gifts,
such as vouchers for services like ironing and babysitting or cookies and
- Don’t feel guilty if you
can’t afford the latest present for your children. You can’t buy love, and it
lasts longer in the memory than any toy.
- Avoid the trap of
reciprocal gift-giving and buying out of obligation.
- Don’t overspend in the
January sales, no matter how good a bargain you might see. Make a budget and
stick with it. If possible, leave the credit cards at home.
- Enjoy low-cost
entertainment like lights in town, family board games and holiday programs at churches
Sam Brink, minister of
church resources and mission support for American Baptist Churches of
Wisconsin, proposed another checklist of
questions to ask one’s self after the holiday season is over.
- “Was my Christmas
experience one of good news for me and for those around me?”
- “Do I feel comfortable
today with the amount of money that I/we spent over the Christmas holidays?”
- “What of myself did I give
away this Christmas?”
- “Did I/we have a Christmas
spending plan and did I/we stick to it?”
- “Did it really feel more
blessed to give than to receive?”
- “What do I/we need to do
this year to make sure (next) Christmas will be different?”
- “How did my/our church
help me/us to celebrate Christmas in a financial healthy way?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is
senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)