I’M GUESSING OUR credit cards are excited. It’s the holidays, so they’ll get to see the light of day more often. December is a time for spending, for throwing caution to the wind, for rationalizing what we and our children need or deserve. It doesn’t help that we’re barraged with advertising tugging at our heart strings.
Perhaps it’s time to counterattack, to apply logic and to think not about the joys of Christmas morning presents or the next Chanukah gift, but about January and February’s credit card statements. It isn’t going to be easy. Santa driving down a snowy road in a red Mercedes is pretty appealing, especially when they’re promoting what appears to be an affordable lease.
Need an antidote? You might check out two of my favorite holiday movies. In A Christmas Story, Ralphie’s family’s focus on traditions and a few simple gifts—even the unwanted ones—brings back childhood memories, including the fact that I never did get a Red Ryder rifle. Meanwhile, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol reminds us of what’s really important.
Surveys vary and may understate total spending, but it appears each adult will spend more than $900 on gifts alone, up sharply since the 2008-09 recession. Holiday sales for 2019 are predicted to increase by 3.8% to 4.2% from 2018’s level.
About to join the crowd? Before rushing off to the mall or logging on to Amazon, here are 11 thoughts worthy of the Grinch:
When I was growing up, under our Christmas tree each year was a 1920 Lionel train engine—just the engine. That was all my father had left from his childhood. Shortly before Christmas one year, my mother sold the engine to a collector. I learned of the sale by chance.
My wife, knowing I was devastated, convinced the buyer to sell it to her for the price he paid. I purchased an old transformer, a few pieces of track and three 1920 railroad cars to accompany the engine. That Christmas, when my parents came for dinner, the train was running under our tree. My mother stared in silence. My dad cried. After 60 years, he played with his train again and, thereafter, did so for a few minutes each Christmas until he died. Now my grandchildren and I do the same.
Despite my curmudgeonly tone, I always look forward to the holidays. But 76 years as a child, parent, grandparent and old man have taught me many lessons about what’s truly important—and one of those lessons is that it takes thought, not money, to buy gifts that are truly appreciated.
Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.com. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His previous articles include Fashion Statement, You’re on Your Own and What’s Your Plan. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.