Generosity is good. Generosity can also be dangerous.
Our website poll a couple of days ago indicated 36% of respondents will spend more than $1,000 on Christmas gifts, and another 47% will spend between $300 and $1,000.
Combine that with today’s reports of increased consumer debt (http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/11/14/transunion-debt-credit.html) and the question has to be asked: Are we giving big at Christmas and using debt to finance it?
I’m of two minds on this. I think it’s terrific Cumberland residents, living in a region not generally considered well off, are big spenders at Christmas. It says something very positive about us: Christmas should be a big deal, and even if it strains the bank to do it, we’ll make it a big deal.
I get that. But I’ll confess to being surprised at the response to the poll. Granted, regular readers of newspapers may skew in favour of education, which in turn may skew in favour of higher incomes. And perhaps people are more likely to respond to a poll when they’re giving big, than reporting they have little to give. In other words, the poll is far from scientific.
But more than a third giving more than a grand? What percentage of our populace can afford to spend more than a $1,000 on Christmas presents? I’m sure it’s not a third of us. I doubt it’s even a tenth.
I’m not trying to be a jerk. I get the motivation behind going big on gifts, regardless of what it does to January’s bank statement. Budget restrictions suck when you want to get loved ones the perfect gift. I don’t think overspending on Christmas would be a problem, though, if it weren’t part of a bigger trend.
Consumer debt has been rising and rising, and debt from this Christmas isn’t part of those statistics. Consumer debt is part of a bigger trend: society’s collective debt keeps rising. The federal government recently announced a new, later target for deficit reduction: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/falling-revenues-slowing-deficit-reduction-plan-flaherty-says-1.1035918
Yet attempts to curb government spending are still labeled “right wing” or “American”.
There’s nothing right wing, mean-spirited, cruel or even anti-union about saying 4 + 4 = 8. The numbers don’t lie: our spending is outstripping our earning. Critics argue austerity cuts can cause more harm than good, potentially stalling the economy. But even modest reductions are greeted with screams of outrage. Surely removing deficit spending – nationally or in our own homes – is sound fiscal management.
I have no desire to add the label Grinch to my name. This isn’t a call for a frugal Christmas. More like a call for a new year’s resolution: Make 2013 a thrifty year, and phone your MP or MLA and tell them to get onboard.
UPDATE - Another article on the topic of deficits (apologies for having to copy and paste): http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/11/13/michael-den-tandt-flaherty-update-makes-it-clear-canada-no-longer-has-a-conservative-party/