Article first published as Where does the Christmas mania end? on Technorati.
National unemployment rose to 9.8% during November, equaling 15.1 million Americans out of work. And while foreclosure rates have fallen in recent months, the number of people delinquent on their mortgages doesn’t seem to be changing, instead it appears banks are becoming more lenient on late payers in an attempt to stem the flood of foreclosed properties on the market.
How does this affect Christmas?
Many American families are planning on having fewer gifts under the tree this year. But, what does that translate to in real dollars? Per this Gallup poll (link no longer valid), Americans plan to spend an average of $715 on gifts for the 2010 holiday season. This is not per family, but per person.
For some of you this will seem like an outrageous amount of money and for others, this may not seem like enough. So for purposes of perspective, let’s consider this based upon percentage of annual income. Per this article, the average American income is right around $44,000 per year. The median income is approximately $33,000 per year.
- Average – $715/$44,000 = 1.6% of gross income spent on Christmas presents
- Median – $715/$33,000 = 2.2% of gross income on Christmas presents
How does this fit with your personal spending plans? Does it seem on track?
For additional perspective, the woman’s husband that I lent money to in Cambodia earns $4 US per day. What we typically spend on Christmas is nearly his entire annual salary.
Why do we spend so much?
There is plenty of external pressure to spend more and more each year.
Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods or services in even greater amounts.
What pressures are pushing consumerism?
- Christmas ads starting in September,
- Keeping up with the Jones’s,
- Outdoing an ex-spouse perhaps,
- Status symbol of your success,
- American cultural trend that how much I spend on you is a direct reflection of how much I care about you…
What are we trying to accomplish, really?
Are we spending for the sake of our children?
Per this NY Times article, parents’ average contribution to their child’s college costs vary between $3,500 and $18,000 depending on income bracket. Of those funds, $700 to $2,800 is borrowed by the parents. How about we cut Christmas expenditures in half and put it into college savings instead.
Do we think Christmas is about giving and that’s why we spend?
How about we loan that money via Kiva.org and help improve global economics. This seems in keeping with the Christmas spirit – “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.”
The madness surrounding Christmas spending needs to be brought under control. It isn’t the only money madness facing our culture, but it surely is a blatant one and is timely for purposes of this article. However, our money issues span far beyond the reach of this holiday season.
That amount of money is simply beyond my comprehension. I can not envision the stack of bills or coins that it would take to tally up to these astronomical quantities. All I can do is shudder at the thought of the dark shadow this debt casts over our future and our children’s futures.
What exactly is it going to take to teach Americans that we can NOT spend money that we don’t have? Where did this entitlement originate anyway? This thought that you deserve a new car, or a big house, or that new blouse? No, not really.
No one owes us anything more than the freedom to forge our own future. Right now our spending habits are forging shackles that will chain our children’s future. Is that the legacy we want to leave them?
Let’s teach our children the value of love and family and giving without allowing materialism and consumerism to tag along. Let’s teach them to spend and live within their means and to care about their fellow man. Those gifts will take them and the world much further than an extra 10 presents under the tree this year.
What do you think? What values are you instilling this holiday season and how are you doing it?