The Ghost of Christmas Credit

IT’S A WEEK TILL CHRISTMAS!!!!.  

That means Santa and presents and family and that magical feeling you get from watching Star Wars all day.  

Christmas is one of the greatest times during our lives.  We all have memories of forcing ourselves to fall asleep as kids, so we could wake up early and run to see what was left by Santa.  My favorite memory is the Christmas when I was 4 years old and unwrapped the giant square box (from my grandpa) which ended up being my first Nintendo!  My grandma may have video of that somewhere but I don’t think it was as intense as N64 Kid. Then again, I am hoping no one ever finds that tape.  Christmas is a magical time.  It is also an expensive time.  I mean like REALLY expensive.

Statistic: Roughly how much money do you think you personally will spend on Christmas gifts this year? | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

 

This year the average that Americans say they will spend on Christmas gifts is just under $800.  When you are a youngling, you put absolutely no thought into how much Christmas costs.  As you get older and begin to buy gifts for others it slowly seeps in that, “holy reindeer poop is this day expensive!”  

 

A vast majority of people will pull out their handy credit card and charge all their gifts.  By the time we get our initial bill, we have put hundreds, if not a few thousands, of dollars on our credit cards thinking, “it’s the holidays’ I will just pay it off at the first of the year.”  For thousands of Americans once that bill comes all they pay is the minimum.  According to a 2011 report from CreditDonkey, the average person spent around $712 dollars on gifts for the holidays.  If all of that was on a credit card and you only made the minimum monthly payment it would take you four years to pay off the original debt AND the accumulated interest!  Not to mention you would be paying almost $200 in interest!  Two hundred dollars!!!  

$200 might not sound like a lot over four years but be honest with yourself, that credit card will be used time and again over four years.  For argument sake, say you ONLY buy Christmas gifts on that card for a few years, making just the minimum payment.  Let’s also say that the card has a $3000 credit limit and each Christmas you spend right around $800 for gifts.   Well, before your fourth Christmas of using the card, you would have maxed it out. Not to mention some of the original balance from year one would still be on the card.  Smaller, sure, but still there.  That sweater you bought your girlfriend at the time who then broke up with you shortly after that first Christmas, yea you would STILL be paying on that sweater.  So not only did she break your poor, sweet, hopeless romantic heart but you are still paying off her sweater that she probably sold back to a used clothing store! 

Look Tommy Lee Jones may have made Man of the House but the look on his face should make you feel pretty damn stupid, right?  Hell I feel like I did something wrong, I mean those eyes....they just...
Look Tommy Lee Jones may have made Man of the House but the look on his face should make you feel pretty damn stupid, right?  Hell I feel like I did something wrong, I mean those eyes….they just…

This year let’s say you spend the average from the graph above for 2014 ($781) on your credit card and making only the minimum payment.    We will assume that your interest rate is 15%.  If you just make the minimum payment, it will take you 69 months to pay it off.  So in September of 2020 you would be paying off all those gifts you bought in 2014.  Not to mention, you would pay $351.66 in interest charges over those 69 months.

THAT IS 45% OF YOUR ORIGINAL BALANCE!!!  

Everything you bought in 2014 would have cost you about 45% more over five years.  In total you would have spent $1,132.66 for Christmas in 2014.  As I said above more than likely due to our spending habits and the lack of our schools teaching important things like how to live within a budget, you will end up using that card again and if you max out that card?  You do not want to know how long it would take you to pay off $3000 (at minimum payments, it will take you over 12 years and you will pay $1,936 in interest.  Yea that is just about 65% of the original balance!!!)

By the time most of you read this article you may be done with Christmas shopping.  Many of you may have started to pay on your credit card bill.  Hopefully, some of you were smart enough to fit gifts into your budget so you do not spend half the year (or a decade) paying down your debt.  And no one wants to use their tax return to pay down debt come April! 

The other question you might be asking is: why are you talking about money isn’t this some kind of fitnessy type website? 

I know; I know.  You are tired of reading or hearing about the holidays and food and how it will affect my waist line.  But Batman is right, it matters.  If you have a goal or are working towards making fitness/nutrition a priority, this time of year is rough. Between Thanksgiving, holiday parties, family gatherings, the nights getting longer and colder, which give way to that damned craving for carbs, it’s rough.  So many of us just throw our hands up and say, “well, I will get back in the gym after New Years”.  If we apply the same attitude towards our nutrition/fitness as we do to how we spend money on credit during the holidays, we are setting a dangerous precedent.

Take the example I gave above with credit card debt but flip it with calories.  Typically, you live on a budget but since its the holidays, you just say fuck it and let yourself loose a little.  You’re in the holiday spirit, right?  Normally, you would eat a healthy 2000 calories a day and exercise at least 3-4 days a week.  With holiday parties at work, shopping, Christmas pageants, parades, and parties at friends, you find yourself putting exercise on the back burner and eating a few more calories than normal.  

Much of your typical diet may not change but you may find yourself slacking off when it comes to tracking macros.  While out shopping you order food with no thought of its macro profile.  You find that at the office people keep bringing in little treats throughout the month and you say, “well, it’s Christmas so let’s get in the spirit” and indulge a little.  At your best friend’s Christmas party and then your neighbors Ugly Sweater Party you let yourself indulge in your fair share of cookies and just a little too much egg nog.  The next day you have your son/daughter’s Christmas party at school.  Of course all the moms’ baked cookies and cake and food that normally you do not partake in but find yourself enjoying.  In a couple of days, you have your office holiday party, which, in and of itself, can be dangerous because either you work at a place that has the employees participate in a pot-luck, or they provide an open bar.  Open bar Christmas parties…are a carefully placed claymore of catastrophe.  You end up drinking more because it’s free and then eat your fair share of finger foods and then……

Boom goes your diet!

By the time you get to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day you have probably eaten your fair share of extra calories and most of us carry that over until New Years telling ourselves that we will start the new year right.  It’s back to the gym and back to the healthy eating.  However, one pound of fat comprises about 3,500 calories.  Now add up all the excess calories over the 33 days from Thanksgiving to New Years Day and you would not be surprised to see that it’s possible to gain about 4-5 pounds if you just throw caution to the wind.

However, here is an interesting tidbit.

According to a 2000 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average weight gain during the holiday period was just one pound. That equates to approximately 3,500 calories of overeating.

But even though the gain was much smaller than many people assumed, it is still significant.

The NEJM study also found that most respondents never lost the holiday weight they gained; a finding that explains the roughly 1 pound-per-year weight gain that the average American sees as he/she gets older.

Additionally, men and women who are already significantly overweight can easily put on five or more pounds in a holiday season if they fail to eat in moderation and exercise.

— http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/investigations/2014/11/28/local-gym-la-fitness-holiday-weight-gain-claim/19639869/

Huh?  That seems to counter all the warnings of weight gain we read on the Internet or fitness blogs, right?  Well not really.  If you are already inactive, the study found that you could gain five pounds or more.  Now, if you remain fairly inert for a long time, add that five pounds up from each holiday season say from the time you are 20 years old to 30 and there is that 50 pounds you need to lose.  Just like the interest on a credit card that accumulates when you make the minimum payment, over time your fat has compounded and each year you are adding to the previous balance.  Each year so many of us treat the holidays with reckless abandonment and tell ourselves, “I only have a “little” debt/fat to get rid of and can pay it off at the first of the year, right?”  

If you get back on your horse and start eating in moderation (living within a budget) and put yourself in a deficit (calorically and spending wise), then yes you can lose that weight and get out of debt quickly.  Unfortunately, if you are one of those Americans who have racked up years of debit on your body’s credit card and make only the minimum payments you may have to work harder to get out of debt.  Debt restricts your freedom to do the things you want to do.  Excess fat is no different.  Paying down debt sucks just as much as dieting does.  With either you have to eat (spend) less to attack the fat (debt) that you have accumulated.  A 500 calorie deficit a day will get you about 1 pound of fat loss a week, *this is the safest minimum payment you can make without your body going after lean muscle*.  When it comes to money, the deficit you need to create may have to come from cutting out those coffees/lattes from Starbucks.  That $3-4 a day will save you in a month an average of $100 or more of which can be used to pay down your debt (not to mention cutting those out for just black coffee will help in the calorie cutting area as well).  The more fat (debt) you have of course the longer it will take to pay it off(lose the fat).   No one wants to be haunted by the ghost of Christmas past for years to come physically or financially.

Of course, there are a few things you can do.  CreditDonkey has a great list of five things you can do to help circumvent excess credit card spending.  You will see those below and then I will explain how you can apply that to fitness or your diet.

1. Buy a few gifts each week. Instead of waiting until the last moment to do your Christmas shopping, space out your purchases over the weeks leading up to the big day. Then you won’t end up with a long list of things to purchase in a short amount of time, forcing you into quick, irrational buying.

2. Treat credit cards like cash. Don’t spend more on your credit cards than you can afford to pay back by the end of one payment cycle.

3. Set a spending limit. Cap your gift-giving budget to an amount that’s affordable for you.

4. Be realistic about what you can give. Sometimes you just have to be honest with yourself about what’s doable and what’s not.

5. Take advantage of cash back rewards programs. If you’re going to use a credit card to do your Christmas shopping, use one that has a rewards program. That way you’ll earn points for your spending that could be used toward a gift for yourself in 2014 – a reward for acting within your limits during the holidays.

— Jasmine Williams, contributing writer at CreditDonkey

So how can you think about those tips in regard to fitness/nutrition?

  1. Even if you cannot get a full workout in at the gym due to the crazy schedule of the holiday time period, you can always give yourself 10-15 minutes of activity each day.  A quick bodyweight routine, sprints, or just climbing the stairs a couple of times a day instead of the elevator can help counterbalance any excess calories you take in.
  2. Work all that food into your daily Macros.  You might have to guess a little harder or do some research online or eyeball it but as long as you stay conscientious you should be okay.  If you know what is at the holiday party fit it in your macros as best as you can.  No one said you can’t find a way to enjoy the party and still hit your macro budget! 
  3. Give yourself a set limit on cookies/cake/pie and limit yourself to 2-3 drinks at Christmas parties.  No need to gorge yourself, enjoy those treats in moderation.  Eat until you are satisfied not until you are hunched over and moaning.
  4. Admit to yourself that you might slip up and that you may go over budget for one day due to a party.  Then get up the next day and just keep doing what you do every day.  Leave the guilt in the past don’t bring it to the present.
  5. If your gym is open and you can get workouts in, screw it use those party days with all the treats as a way to help get those gainz.  Turn Christmas and its tempting tasty food on its head and make it your own Gainzmas!

Christmas is a great time.  A magical time of joy and smiles and family gatherings and of course Star Wars marathons.  Enjoy the parties, enjoy Christmas Day and most importantly enjoy the wonderful food and gifts with your family.  Christmas can also be an expensive time financially and calorically, if you let it.  Instead of putting diet or exercise off until the new year, why not keep it up through the holiday festivities?  Maybe eat a little less before those big holiday meals to make room for the coming feast.  Plan ahead and keep your daily budget (macros) on point.  If all you can get in is a little 10-minute bodyweight exercise each day or twice a week, great!  The main point is not to let easy spending with credit and the promise of paying it off later prevent you from sticking to your budget.  No one wants to spend months/years paying off debt(fat) that they easily could have avoided.  Make your non-holiday days matter diet wise and plan ahead so you can gift yourself with some holiday awesomeness on the big days. 

 

 

 



Afterthought


this is a new post-main entry aspect I am experimenting with.  The after thought is just that.  A challenge for you to take away and ponder on.  It is not necessarily tied to the above entry but may pull from its ideas and expand on them in a more philosophical and introspective way.

 

 

 

 

 

We have for so many years in America spent ourselves into crushing mounds of debt.  At the same time we made our food cheaper and more plentiful and disregarded the idea of moderation.  We consumed and consumed with no real thought.  It was as if we were just Hungry Hungry Hippos eating every thing that we could get into our mouths.  This thinking has led to a financial crisis (though you can blame banks for much of it, in the end we still participated and are just as guilty) and this thinking led many Americans down the path to obesity causing us billions in health care each year not to mention the next generation of kids may live shorter lives than their parents.

We have reached a point where we can have what we want in a matter of hours or days.  Credit has made it easy to get whatever you want as quickly as possible.  We have developed food that can last for years on a shelf and possibly survive a nuclear winter.  Yet, in all of this consumption we have lost a sense of contentment.  We seem to never be content with enough.  

Do you really need to spend all that money on shiny toys and plastic?  Will that newest iPhone every year make you more content?  Do you really need a 2,500 square foot home that costs $500,000 with 6 rooms for a family of three?  That BMW will you get to point A just as fast as that Honda Civic.  Do we really need to gorge ourselves at this time of the year when food is already abundantly plentiful the other 364 days of the year? 

So too it seems to be with the overload of information.  Our brains have so much coming at it that it has little time to process all the changes or the data it seems to be inundated with on daily basis.  Technology makes communication and acquisition of needs/desires easier and far less stressful than the past.  For most in the western world, food has become cheaper and more abundant.  Almost of third of the food we packaged in 2010 went to the garbage.    The thought I leave you with is this.  What is the true cost of our wanton consuming?  Is it necessary to continue living like Hungry Hungry Hippos consuming with no real thought about why?  

 

 

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