Money & Career

The new holiday tradition of deciding who's worth your debt

Forget naughty and nice. The names on this holiday list boil down to who's worth the credit card debt months later.

Siri Stafford/Getty Images

(Photo Siri Stafford/Getty Images)

I’m looking forward to the holidays this year. I can’t wait to see friends and family in a festive setting and to take part in time-honoured traditions: decorating the Christmas tree, wrapping presents fiendishly on Christmas Eve, going for a walk after dinner and inhaling the soothing scent of countless wood stoves burning brightly in the small village where my parents have lived since I was a teenager.

I haven’t even mentioned the food. There’s my uncle’s famous turkey dinner, complete with savoury stuffing and homemade cranberry sauce, and for dessert coconut cream pie. And then there’s all the seasonal candies — the minty taste of After Eight chocolate and the sticky sweetness of Turtles always take me back to my childhood when we spent Christmas Eve celebrating with the whole family at my great-aunt’s house.

That era has long passed, but it’s easily recollected in the presence of those seasonal treats.

There is one tradition I dread, however, and that’s accumulating more consumer debt. Admittedly, it seems Scrooge-like to worry about personal finances during the giving season, but debt concern is a fact of life for most Canadians.

According to a recent report, Canadians have about $25,597 in consumer debt and over time, credit card interest rates see that debt steadily climb.

I’m still paying for gifts purchased last year. But I’m also paying off my own year-long excesses.

What’s to be done with our debt? Should we forgo spoiling our loved ones during the holidays in favour of thrift and economy? Sure, it’s an attractive, even a reasonable proposition. But then again, choosing to pay 19 percent interest on a gift we bought our mother last year — a woman who never buys herself anything new — isn’t always a dumb idea. Paying for a ridiculously expensive purse I bought in NYC that I’ve used three times? Well that’s starting to feel really dumb.

My goal: spend more on others and less on myself. The debt I accumulate will probably be less and far more meaningful.

I love you enough to pay 19 percent interest on this cashmere sweater for the next 12 months, Mom. They don’t make a card for that but maybe they should.

Are you comfortable going into a bit of debt during the holidays? Tell us in the comment section below.