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Topic of the Month

'Tis the Season for Thrift

Generally speaking, Americans love to buy things. The average household carries $15,607 in credit card debt. Additionally, consumer spending rises during holiday season. For many of us, the meaning behind the holidays, though unintentionally, often takes the back-burner. No matter how much we try to avoid it, we get lured by sales into the bustle of holiday shopping, wanting to show our love and gratitude through gift-giving.

In just a few generations, we have transitioned from a society that values savings to one that relies heavily on debt and credit. Advertising campaigns encourage us to buy things we don’t need, tempting us believe that more stuff will make us happier and more loved. If you can remove the sentimental emotion from the tradition of gift-giving, you will see that the season can create a lot of waste -- both physically and financially.

Below are some tips from a USAtoday article on ways to rethink your holiday spending:

  • Be true to yourself. Try not to compare yourself, your celebration, your gifts or activities against some "ideal," real or imagined.
  • Feel free to change. Just because you've always "done it that way" doesn't mean you have to do it that way forever. Remember that the most constant reality of life is change and you will feel more active and alive when you're creating something new.
  • Avoid spending beyond your means. Do not be pressured by the culture around you – or even your closest friends – to compare dollar for dollar, bow for bow. When you're selecting a gift or throwing a party, arrive at the dollar amount at which you feel comfortable and stick with it.
  • Shop inside your own home. Face it, most of us have more that we need or even know we have. Find something of significance and give it to someone you care for with a history attached.
  • Give gifts of time and talent. Give gift certificates for your services: a home-cooked meal for four delivered to your friend's home; a massage to your significant other, redeemable when he needs it most; house cleaning or baby-sitting for the evening.
  • Give experiential gifts. That is vanishing gifts – gifts that don't add clutter. Tickets to the Nutcracker, an art show, the theater or movie.
  • Give to a worthwhile cause. Make a donation in someone's name. Write him or her and tell what inspired you to make this gift. Just as with a material gift, the best donation comes when you tune into the recipient's philanthropic interests rather than giving something that you support.

While gift-giving is fun, we don’t have to feel broke and stressed as we enter the New Year. Let’s commit to rethinking our gift-giving traditions this year so the focus is truly on loved ones. Check back each week throughout December while we offer tips to encourage holiday thriftiness.

From all of us at MCUCD, may you have a blessed holiday season!

Click here for the December CRC Package.

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Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (or MCUCD) is the award-winning, charitable arm of the Montana Credit Union Network. A state-wide nonprofit organization, MCUCD works together with the state's credit unions to improve the lives and financial independence of all Montanans.