American Money: Simplifying Christmas Shopping

American Money: Simplifying Christmas Shopping

Holidays have a spiritual message at their core that encourages us to prioritize family, community and generosity over materialistic excess.

Published December 20, 2012

Every year as we approach Christmas, a relentless onslaught of advertising persuades us to go overboard on holiday shopping.  Even during tough economic times it’s tempting to buy gifts we cannot afford for loved ones. However, wiping out your savings to splurge on friends and family can lead to regret by New Year’s when you’re asking for their help to pay rent. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor—develop a sustainable holiday shopping strategy that leaves you in a position of financial strength.

Manipulative marketing messages quickly teach children from an early age to assign happiness to consumer goods, pressuring parents to spend money they don’t have. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with buying gifts, we should also make sure we provide our children with plenty of positive experiences that aren’t associated with consumer products. 

Instead of exchanging expensive presents, why not arrange free but memorable family events? Browse around to find low-cost local activities around your area, such as holiday parades, library readings, festivals, school concerts, and museum exhibitions. Take them on a tour around neighborhoods to see Christmas light displays.  Make and decorate a gingerbread house or bake some treats. Show them that happy holiday moments don’t always involve presents.

When you do buy holiday gifts, get the most out of your money by cutting through the marketing hype. Every year, everyone scrambles to buy another must-have “it” item. Before you jump on the bandwagon, always ask yourself: does this item have unique value, or am I swayed by its trendiness or brand name?

Exercise your best judgment and buy surprising, thoughtful gifts that truly speak to the personalities and talents of your recipients.  The joy derived from these presents will far outlast the short-lived appeal of trendy gifts that will fall out of fashion in a couple of months.

Having the whole family volunteer together is another great way to create holiday memories. Helping others in need brings our core priorities to the forefront, reminding us to be grateful rather than fixating on what we don’t have.  You can also give tax deductible donations to non-profits and other organizations on behalf of your children, educating them in the process about the importance of charities and community activism.

Remember: holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa have a spiritual message at their core that encourages us to prioritize family, community and generosity over materialistic excess. Let’s aim to live up to those values this holiday season by spending within our means, avoiding indebtedness, and building wealth together.  


American Money is a weekly column written by Dedrick Muhammad, the senior director of the NAACP Economic Programs for To learn more about preventing foreclosure and personal finance, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or on Twitter @naacpecon


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Written by Dedrick Muhammad


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