Holiday gift shopping is almost over, and for many it’s a big expense that shows up in monthly credit card bills.
The stores have a wide variety of expensive items. It’s hard sometimes to find a reasonable gift for less than $20. It requires imagination.
It’s hard to fault gift shopping. Among other things, it is a major factor in the economy. When people spend, it generates income for workers’ wages and potential reinvestment in businesses.
Buying gifts is also a way to show appreciation to the special people in our lives. It’s fun trying to find cute, fun gifts they’ll love.
It’s tempting to go all out, go above and beyond in search of special gifts. However, there is a need to set appropriate boundaries.
We live in an age where many people live from paycheck to paycheck. When they get paid, they have to pay many different bills. There are houses, cars, computers, cable, phone, utilities, credit cards and often more.
Most people don’t save. They may have a lot of things, but nothing is actually paid in full. It’s a story that doesn’t get much coverage in the news. Rather, managing money is considered a personal choice in a free society.
It is almost always expected that a teenager will go into debt to pay for a college education. He will then want to invest in a house before his student loans pay off.
Everyone wants to save for a comfortable retirement, but starting the saving process at a young age can be difficult. The cost of living is high. Even a thrifty person has some fixed expenses that cannot be avoided.
I’m not sure what we can do as a society to change that. Another possibility is a change in the funding system for college education. Costs must be incurred, even if it means limiting the amount of new equipment or new computers.
Another way would be the modification of the mortgage system, especially the possibility of requiring more as a down payment. When home loans become more difficult to obtain, rates are more likely to rise slightly and perhaps not at all.
The key to everything is sustainability. Any decisions we make about money should result in a manageable path towards future financial security. No one can borrow their way out of debt.
Changes in the cost of college or housing will not happen immediately. There are many forces in society that benefit from these programs remaining in their current state.
Instead people can only control very small decisions like buying gifts. We don’t have to focus on the most popular, expensive product options. We can look further, looking for real deals.
An expression “critical thought” is used frequently. In the busy shopping process of the 21st century, we may wonder if it is really true.
I think it’s still true. A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be beautiful. Sometimes even something that costs only a few dollars can be a perfect gift for relatives or friends.
Part of the fun of shopping is choosing the right opportunities. It’s an adventure. You never know what you might find.
I usually start out thinking I want something special from someone but end up buying something completely different. It’s okay to do that. It’s good to be creative.
It’s great later when you can open your January credit card bill and find it’s not as high as you expected. That shows a successful balance. It is satisfying to give good gifts and then go on to excel.
I have a Christmas DVD set that includes mid-20th century television shows. They really do a good job on those days of showing the true meaning of the Christmas season. We can still achieve that. It’s still an important thought.
– Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent