Scrooge Had The Right Idea

Ebenezer Scrooge

Ebenezer, not McDuck

(NOTE: Read the bottom of the post. We’re submitting this in a contest. Details here.)

You want to show your loved ones how much you care? Get them the perfectly accessible, never unfashionable, easy-to-find gift.


Last I checked, we were in the worst recession in several generations – one spawned by a chronic reluctance to save and spend judiciously, on the part of both us and the officials we elect to spend our money.

Do you have enough to take care of yourself, without worrying about going into debt? Are you carrying a zero balance on your credit card(s)? If the honest answers are anything other than two resoundingly loud yesses, then you shouldn’t be buying gifts anyway.

Wow, what a killjoy. Don’t you understand that giving is the very meaning of Christmas, regardless of how much money you have?

Look, Mr. and Mrs. American consumer: the meaning of Christmas is commemorating the birth of Christ, but that’s beside the point. When your kids rip the wrapping paper off a new 320 GB PlayStation 3, and the smiles on their acquisitive little faces light up the living room, try to remember that that warm feeling you’re experiencing is inexorably linked to the $350 that you just added to your four- or five-digit credit card balance – and is now going to be costing you prohibitive interest.

Discretionary spending is for the people who can afford it. Which, by any measure, doesn’t include that many of us this year. For the rest of us, the best you can give your family and friends is to take active steps away from privation and in the direction of affluence. Buying stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily buy, especially for other people, won’t get it done.

You can rationalize all you want. Here are some paint-by-numbers rationalizations to get you started:

-Sorry, I’m not a heartless monster.

(Good, your kids can fashion a lean-to out of the PS3 box after the mean old lender finally forecloses on the house you bought with an interest-only mortgage, and couldn’t make payments on because you were too busy financing toys.)

-Spending money helps the economy.

(They why not take out a second mortgage while you’re at it, and use it to pick up a couple of snowmobiles? The liquidity of money is something for rich people to worry about, not you.)

-Other people will buy me gifts, and I’m obligated to return the favor.

(Thus proving that you don’t really buy that bromide about “the spirit of giving”. If people are giving you things, great. Let the givers enjoy their giving – if they really do enjoy it for its own sake, they won’t want nor expect anything in return.)

Merry Christmas!

Today’s post is part of the Go Banking RatesHolidays and Money” writing project. It’s supposed to encourage creative writing among personal finance bloggers, on a particular subject.

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