It was my worst Christmas ever. I’d been hiding bills from my husband so we would have money for Christmas shopping, but it wasn’t enough. It never was.
Every credit card in my vast collection was maxed to the limit. Back then going over limit was not allowed. If you tried, the card would be rejected at the cash register. There are few things more humiliating than the dreaded words, “You’ll need to go to the credit office.”
With only seven days to go until the big day, I was desperate. Still to come were parties, school events, church pageants, and musicals. The pressure of the season was taking its toll. The stress was nearly unbearable.
I did the only thing I could do: I called the department stores whose cards I had and begged for a credit limit increase. One high-end store agreed. That determined my course of action. I would have to Christmas shop in a big chichi store that specialized in clothing.
The store directory assured me it had toys and electronics too. But just try to find them. When I did find toys and electronics, the selections were limited and the prices outlandish. But by then I didn’t care what the price tags read. There was so little time left, and I was determined to mark the last names off my list and just get this shopping thing finished.
Before I go on, you need to know this was quite a few years ago when VCRs (videocassette recorders) were fairly new technology and quite the buzz. I purchased a VCR from that department store for my husband. It cost more than six hundred dollars—about double what they were going for at the time in discount electronics stores.
But what were my other choices? My only available credit was at this one department store. I tore through that increased credit limit in no time flat. I bought toys and clothes and of course the pricey VCR. The kids weren’t impressed; neither was my husband. He couldn’t quite understand my choice of gifts because we already had a VCR. Not a very good one, I pointed out.
I don’t remember much else from that miserable Christmas.
If there was any joy or satisfaction, it was lost in the shadow of the frantic last-minute shopping and all the debt I added to an already out-ofcontrol situation. Of course, the regular bills couldn’t hide forever, and their reappearance in the New Year did not endear me to my husband.
Add to them the bills for all that Christmas shopping and you’ll have a small idea of the angst and disharmony in the Hunt household. I’m certain we paid for that VCR at least three times by the time we finally got out of debt many years later. The debt lasted far longer than the machine, which has long since gone to the big electronic graveyard in the sky. But it remains for me an important symbol of what not to do.
After that low point of my life, I made a U-turn on the road to financial devastation. It took nearly thirteen years to repay all the horrible debt I had amassed (a story for another day), but the important thing is that we did it.
We paid back a six-figure load of unsecured debt, and in the process, it changed our lives.
"We paid back a six-figure load of unsecured debt, and in the process, it changed our lives."
If there’s one thing I learned from that Christmas so many years ago, it is this: Stuff quickly fades, but debt goes on and on. As you read this now, it may be spring or fall. As I write, it’s summer. The days are long, the grass is green, and the livin’ is easy. Even so, and no matter what time of year it is, there is something we need to talk about.
Relatively speaking, the holidays are just a few short months away. Christmas can creep up on us like a swimsuit that’s a couple of sizes too small.
I don’t know how much credit-card debt has your name on it, but the fact that you’re reading this book suggests there might be some.
Or perhaps you aren’t in debt, but you want to make sure you stay that way. There’s no doubt that relying on credit to pay for holiday shopping can be very tempting. The credit-card companies want us to believe it won’t make any difference—that holiday debt is simple to pay off. But we know better. It’s time to say enough is enough.
Being sick and tired of overspending and starting each New Year with a holiday debt hangover for stuff no one remembers is the catalyst that can make things different for you in the future. You have to say, “Enough! I’m not going to do that anymore.”
What you hold in your hand is not a challenge to stop giving gifts or celebrating Christmas or even spending money. Not at all. Because every situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all holiday plan, this book is packed with ideas for how to have an all-cash Christmas.
No matter how much or how little cash you have to spend, staying away from credit-card debt is going to change your holiday experience in ways you never dreamed possible.
Here’s my challenge for you: This Christmas, lock up the credit cards and let me show you how to experience the best Christmas ever with no debt, less stress, and more joy! Prepare yourself for the most meaningful Christmas you and your family have ever experienced—a very merry, debt-free Christmas.