The Night Before Christmas


”Twas the night before Christmas when all through the land, retailers were nervous and sales were at hand.  The shoppers were scurrying from store to store and their wallets were lighter as they walked out the door.  

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of X-Box danced in their heads.  The parents were sleeping with troubled minds, while dreaming of time off from the daily grind.  

When out in the mailbox arose such a clatter, the credit card statements had gotten much fatter.  Away to the bank they drove with such force, to settle the bill with Christmas remorse.


I’m Dreaming of a Cash Christmas

Christmas Sale

Image by Emdot

This year, my goal was to pay cash (debit card) for all of my Christmas presents.  And, despite a series of unexpected expenses, I only put $30 on a credit card this month.  Citibank is probably wondering if I have been kidnapped by the Grinch.  I worked hard all year to pay down that card and I had no intention of ringing it back up.  Next year, the balance will be zero and so will the interest. 

Less is Definitely More

In the past couple of years, I have changed my Christmas spending habits.  I spend a lot less than I used to and everyone is fine with it.  We really don’t need any new toys and trinkets, so I cut back to one entertainment gift per kid.  Instead, I buy necessities, such as shoes and clothing.  My kids are becoming adults and they are starting to appreciate more practical gifts.  I also stopped trying to even the score by buying the exact same dollar amount per person.  If one person gets $20 more worth of presents than the other, they will never know or care.

It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life is a movie that shows how overwhelming misfortune can be turned into triumph, by faith in the goodness of mankind.

A couple of days ago, I sat down with my wife and told her what a great year it has been and how thankful I am.  I told her how lucky we are that I have a good job and we have a nice home.  I know so many people who are on the edge financially or they have lost their homes this year.  I have a good friend with an MBA who hasn’t had steady work for years.  And, I have another friend who had to move back in with his parents, after 20 years out on his own.   I hope for good fortune for my friends and others in the coming year.

Miracle on 34th Street 

Miracle on 34th Street is a movie that shows how the Christmas spirit can overcome the bustle and commercialism that tarnish this special day.  

My idea of the Christmas spirit is all of the wonderful holiday parties we attend this time of year.  I also cherish the phone calls, emails and Christmas cards from those we haven’t heard from in a while.  Every year, as I focus less on gifts and more on people and I find myself enjoying Christmas more.  The stress and fatigue I used to feel at this time of year has been replaced by gratitude.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that Christmas is about the birth of Christ.  It’s not about going into debt or impressing your neighbors.  Expensive and extravagant gifts are no substitute for sharing love and compassion with others.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.  

“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”  

Janice Maeditere  

Recommended Reading

Len Penzo – Why I Love Christmas: From My Daughter, Nina
Out of Your Rut – The Real Meaning of Christmas
Money reasons – Presents for Family Adult Members

This post was featured on the Carnival of Personal Finance over at Blonde and Blanaced.  If you aren’t familiar with the Carnival of Personal Finance, you need to check it out. It’s the greatest carnival on the net.

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13 comments to The Night Before Christmas

  • Saw your poem on Facebook and loved it!

    I was able to do a cash Christmas also! A day without bills is a good day!

    To add to the list: my favorite Christmas movies are The Christmas Shoes and A Home for Christmas. both on Lifetime.
    Carol@inthetrenches recently posted..Mr Willowbys Christmas TreeMy Profile

    • Carol,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      A day without bills is a good day. And, a January without a Christmas hangover is a great way to start the new year. I only wish I had of figured that out a long time ago.

  • Terrific article, as usual, Bret! You’ve got your priorities in order. I put everything on the credit card, but it will all be paid off at the end of the month. And I should end up with a nice dividend reward from the credit card company too, which will end up paying for a small gift card or two!

    Merry Christmas to you and your entire family, my friend!

    All the best,

    Len Penzo dot Com

    • Len,

      I envy you. Next year, after Citibank is paid off, I will probably switch from debit to credit cards and pay off the entire balance each month. But for now, debit is the way to go for me. In the future, credit will be my friend, instead of my enemy.

      I hope you guys are having a wonderful Christmas.


  • Merry Christmas to you (too!) Bret! Your philosophy is a good one.

    Also, $30 is an incredible feat on a December credit card bill!

    PKamp3 recently posted..Merry Christmas!My Profile

  • Hi Bret, it sounds like you really have your Christmas celebration aligned with your priorities! My husband and I really scaled down this year in terms of gifts, we skipped the Christmas cards and just spent the day hanging out at home. After traveling earlier in the month, we just needed to relax. Other than traveling, we spent less than $500 on the whole thing, and supported some small artists at the same time. I think my favorite part was driving around the rich neighborhood to see all the lights.
    Jennifer Barry recently posted..A Visit to the Future- Singularity University- Part 2My Profile

    • Jennifer,

      It sounds like you had a wonderful day and I’ll bet you didn’t miss the gifts at all. Even though I can afford them, I don’t feel like we need all of that stuff and I’m glad we scaled back. I do have some cards I want to send out, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. That is my mission for this week, late Christmas cards.

  • Bret, I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas. I know you will have a great January with only a $30 charge.

    I won’t owe anything for Christmas, but will have that last CC debt paid off in early January after working on it for 20 months.
    Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer recently posted..Carnival of Money Stories 86- New Year’s Resolution EditionMy Profile

    • Kay Lynn,

      We had a great Christmas this year. Both of my kids had to work in the morning, but we still had a nice dinner at my Mom’s on Christmas.

      Congratuations on being CC debt free next month. That’s quite an accomplishment and I hope you enjoy the moment. I’m right behind you, but it will take me all of 2011. I’m saving 20% and paying extra on my mortgage, so I’m fighting the battle on three fronts. But, Citibank is in my sights.

      I look forward to seeing you at the So. Cal. Bloggers Meetup next month.

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