The Color of Money / Home & Consumer

Color of Money: A Fire Drill to Curb Spending

WASHINGTON -- It's here, the time of year we say it's not about the presents -- and yet we spend like it is.

The question is: Do you have a method to resist the annual spending spree if your money is right?

More than 147 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) this year, according to the National Retail Federation, which also is forecasting that holiday sales in November and December will increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion.

As my holiday tradition every year, I try to find some way to keep the spendthrifts and heavily indebted from caving in to the pressure to buy when they don't have the cash.

I recently sat down with a mother of two young boys who wanted me to look at her spending and help her figure out why she couldn't make ends meet. She thought she was spending too much on housing.

It wasn't the mortgage payments that were breaking her budget. It was the debt she had amassed trying to live above her means. Personal loans and credit card debt took far too much of her monthly paycheck.

So we worked out a budget, which didn't leave much to spend on things other than covering her basic necessities and paying down her debt. She then asked me a question that made me feel sad for her.

"What about Christmas?" she asked.

"What about it?" I said.

"I have to give my boys something," she pleaded. "They will be so hurt if I don't put a lot of stuff under the tree. I have to buy something for them. I have to."

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Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group



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