You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have

Birthday GiftA new thought occurred to me recently. That is, you can’t give what you don’t have.

For instance, if you come to my house and ask me for a can of Pepsi, you will be disappointed. I don’t have Pepsi, so I can’t give you any.

I’m sure most people will agree with this simple illustration. But let’s shift the discussion toward a sensitive topic: gift giving.

It is my belief that birthdays and Christmas are two big reasons people resort to credit and go into debt. I’ve run the numbers before. It’s quite easy to drop $50 to $100 a month on gifts. Real figures are probably more than that.

The trouble is, most of us don’t budget for gifts. And so when several birthdays fall close together… or it’s time to buy gifts at Christmas… it’s not uncommon to ask Visa or MasterCard to pay the bill.

But let me ask you a question. Are you giving the gifts? Or is the credit card company?

Instead of signing our gifts “From Dad & Mom” or “From Your Hubbie,” perhaps we should sign them “From Visa.”

Since many people have negative net worth (they have more debt than assets), then they really have no money with which to give. Therefore, it stand to follow that they cannot give what they don’t have.

For this reason (among others), I’m considering putting a temporary stop to gift giving. It just doesn’t make any sense to depend on credit to give gifts. Not only are you paying more than you should (because of interest on the revolving balance), you’re also delaying the time when you finally become debt free.

The biggest objection people will have to following this advice is the fear of what people will think. They will say you are being a Scrooge. But really, you probably have more to fear from mounting debt than people’s opinions. Something to think about.

P.S. I just finished re-reading Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol. Remember, Ebenezer Scrooge was wealthy. He actually had the means to give.

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3 thoughts on “You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have”

  1. Nicole says, “Way to go Ryan! We’re on board with you!”

    That’s something we thought about many, many times.

    It falls under the grey area I was talking about.

    Actually, I just proposed a week or so ago to my wife that we record different “episodes” with our newborn son, doing fun and crazy things. Cut it together. Burn it onto DVDs, and give that to people. High perceived value (in our opinion… umm… my opinion) very low cost.

    Other thought… if you just don’t give gifts and write a nice card, saying money’s too tight can’t afford a gift, you’ll quickly figure out who are your REAL friends and DEAREST relatives.

    In fact, it may get rid of annoying people in our lives.

    John & Nicole

    PS We love Dickens. Read Scrooge a few times. Also, have you read David Copperfield. Mr. Micawber is the epitome of the man in debt.

  2. Thanks for the positive feedback, John (and Nicole). Great suggestion about the cards.

    I haven’t read David Copperfield yet, but perhaps I should. I tried reading The Old Curiosity Shop once and just couldn’t get through it. Which made me shy of Dickens’ larger works.

  3. I agree with you on the gift thing… I have noticed at least with my wife and her family that gifts are a much bigger thing.

    It’s hard to change when there are so many good memories attached to Christmas time gifts.

    This would be much easier to implement for birthdays. Lately we have started just treating the person to dinner out.

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