Avoiding Christmas Debt: How Not to Finance Gifts

Christmas is getting closer - and with it often the gift shopping.

Avoiding Christmas Debt: How Not to Finance Gifts

Christmas is getting closer - and with it often the gift shopping. For parents in particular, this can mean great financial pressure at the moment. Can this be avoided?

Sad children's eyes are often difficult for parents to bear. Especially for the celebration of love. But not all of the wishes of the offspring can always be fulfilled. Especially in view of the sharp rise in living costs, the wish lists can sometimes blow up the parents' budget. Disappointments are inevitable. So what to do?

In any case, as recently as last year, some Germans were willing to take on debt during the Christmas season, as a representative survey by the credit broker Smava from 2021 shows. At least one in four respondents could imagine using a credit card, installment payments or an overdraft facility to finance Christmas presents and the like.

Annabel Oelmann from the consumer advice center in Bremen doesn't think much of financing Christmas presents: "You can do that for a property or a car, but not for this type of consumption."

And for two reasons: In the end, the bill has to be paid one way or the other. Only: Then there is usually no more money than before. "So I'm just postponing the issue, I don't actually have the money for it," she says. In addition, many people would have important insurance bills due again at the beginning of the year, which cannot be postponed.

Irrespective of this, the various financing options involve different risks: When using the overdraft facility, relatively high interest rates are usually incurred, and paying off installment loans can take a long time. With zero-percent financing, the costs can sometimes be hidden and those who frequently take advantage of buy-now-pay-later offers can sometimes lose track.

There is no need to go into debt for Christmas gifts at all. "Children are not as material as many think," says child and adolescent psychotherapist Dennis Bikki. However, it is important that parents explain the situation to their children in an age-appropriate manner. "For example, it is understandable for children when parents mediate: 'We now have to pay more money for the heating, so the Christmas presents are a bit smaller.' It's more important that we're all warm," said Bikki.

If this open communication does not take place, children could interpret smaller or cheaper gifts as punishment for their own misconduct, says the psychotherapist.

"Money isn't everything that makes you happy," says Annabel Oelmann. Rather, the value of a gift depends on how much time and love you put into something. She advises parents to be creative, to make or make gifts themselves - maybe even together with the children. These can be, for example, homemade biscuits or homemade bath salts. "It's really fun and everyone ends up with a little something to give to someone."

A trip together, a self-organized city tour or a family project in which you create something together could also be good alternatives - for example a bird house that the children can paint themselves and set up in the garden or on the balcony, says Dennis Bikki. A large family reunion with relatives children and friends in a large public playground is also conceivable.

"Children are very fond of social gifts," says the psychotherapist. The emotional value of some thing or undertaking often exceeds its actual value because there is a story attached to it. And not because it was expensive or because it looks good.

The psychologist and psychotherapist André Ilcin also experiences in his practice that people remember social gifts much more than material gifts. The gift for a five-year-old child is no longer interesting a year later at the latest. "But one social activity is remembered by parents and children well into old age."

Parents shouldn't feel guilty if they can't fulfill their children's every wish. And they are certainly not bad parents because of that. Ilcin's advice to mothers and fathers who are still struggling: to put the one day of presents a year - or two with the birthday - in relation to the remaining 364 or 363 days. This should make you realize that your own performance can hardly be diminished by this.

If that doesn't comfort you and you still want to fulfill a cherished wish for your children, Annabel Oelmann advises you to compare prices and maybe even consider buying a used one. Maybe grandma and grandpa or uncles and aunts can also contribute something to the gift.

You could also consider giving the children a joint gift that they have to share, says Dennis Bikki. "So they learn the necessary social skills that they need for life."