One of the toughest lessons you learn as an adult is that all of the Christmas cheer and joy you loved as a child takes a lot of hard work and money to make happen. Americans will spend an average of $1,008 this year on gifts, decorations, and more to make sure the holidays are happy ones, according to the National Retail Federation. But in addition to the financial burden, parents shoulder the responsibility of planning and coordinating what they hope will be cherished memories for their children, the stress of which has a majority of them wishing they could just cancel Christmas altogether according to one recent survey by travel website Trafalgar.
How parents are embracing stressful spending
Trafalgar's survey of 2,500 parents across the United States revealed a whopping 66% of the nation's moms and dads would rather take a trip with the family instead of celebrating Christmas at home. An even larger percentage (78%) wants to take the money they plan to spend on gifts and put it toward funding a vacation.
It's understandable that so many of the parents surveyed would like to escape from their holiday obligations—1 in 3 reported they planned on spending between $800 and $1,200 on each child's gift and 56% expected to drop more than $5,000 on the holidays in general, far more than the average $1,008 as reported by the NRF. While it's easy to assume anyone able to spend that kind of money on toys and tinsel is wealthy enough to avoid worrying about their finances, many Americans pack on personal debt (along with the extra pounds) during the holidays by spending beyond their means. Last year, shoppers added $1,054 to their debt during the holidays, mostly by using their credit cards.
Does it make sense to take a Christmas vacation?
If you feel like you're spending too much on making the season warm and bright, then it may be worth considering putting that money toward a dream vacation instead. For years, there's been a growing body of research indicating people feel happier buying experiences rather than possessions, and a trip to Disneyland or Paris (or even Disneyland in Paris) could very well bring your family more joy than a pile of presents under the tree.
But even if you take a vacation this year, you're unlikely to give up on a traditional Christmas for good. We can't tell you how to nail the decorations or get the baking done on time, but here's some advice for dealing with the holiday's financial fallout:
Find your balance. If you have shopping debt spread across several different credit cards, consider consolidating the debt onto a single card made for that purpose. Getting all your debt together on one card should help you avoid paying multiple interest fees and stay organized.
Pay attention to the interest. Shoppers preferring to keep their debt on multiple cards should start paying off the debt charging the highest interest first, even if you can knock out a smaller-sized debt charging lower interest sooner. Remember, interest is essentially a fee you're charged for carrying a debt, so the sooner you pay off the debt incurring the highest interest, the less time you'll spend spending money for nothing.
Skip the credit card. One of the easiest ways to deal with holiday debt is to avoid it in the first place. That's easier said than done, but consider paying for this year's gifts with a debit card or cash instead of credit. One MIT study showed people can be willing to spend up to 100% more on an item if they pay for it with a credit card, so think carefully about not just how much you want to spend, but how you want to pay for it.