Faith-based charity helps you enjoy a debt-free Christmas

You do not have to bear hard times alone

Jane-Harris-ZsovanCALGARY, AB, Nov 29, 2013/ Troy Media/ – Scary reading, indeed! The Royal Bank of Canada’s November Canadian Consumer Outlook predicts that the average Canadian will spend $1,192.50 celebrating the holidays this year. Since most of us don’t put money away to pay for presents, we can wind up paying for holiday gifts with credit cards.

In October, TransUnion, which monitors consumer credit, released a Google Consumer survey of Canadians in which 64.6 per cent of participants who plan to buy Christmas gifts this year admitted that they haven’t saved any money for their annual gift-buying blitz.

It’s enough to quash the Christmas spirit.

Even when you aren’t struggling financially, images of January credit card bills dancing in your heads can turn any of us into 21st century Scrooges. But don’t skip your December celebration. Let’s recapture it!

It’s time to put away you frowns along with our credit cards because you don’t need to bury yourself in debt to make Christmas 2013 memorable.

Instead of focusing on the price tag of the gifts you give or receive, remember what your grandma told you: “It’s the thought that counts.”

Put those credit cards away, purchase or make what you can afford, and make people – including you – the focus of your holiday celebration.

This year, many of Canadians are dealing with the aftermath of massive disasters such as the Alberta floods and the Lac Megantic explosion. Many more are rebuilding after private disasters, such as job loss or illness, loss of a loved one.

Are you one of them? Are you thinking that you can’t afford Christmas?

Upheavals in our lives not only drain our wallets; they tempt us to think we have nothing left to celebrate. Negative thinking won’t make us richer, but hope might.

Creating happier memories, resting, and re-connecting to family, friends, co-workers and the greater community; help us look beyond the grind of living. Celebrations are especially important when we weather grief, illness, job loss, debt or broken relationships – when money is often tight, when we don’t feel like giving or receiving gifts, and when we are tempted to hide away in our misery.

“There’s a life to be enjoyed. For us at CAP Canada, the focus is on helping people who are overwhelmed make healthy Christmas choices. One of the things that we have done is highlight ways of celebrating with family, friends, festivals, and embracing community,” says Will Maclaughlin, development manager at CAP Canada.

New to Canada, CAP is a faith based charity that has had considerable success in raising people out of poverty in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The rising debt levels among Canadians have prompted Christians Against Poverty to train teams of volunteers to help struggling Canadians find financial solutions that eliminate our reliance on credit cards.

Unlike many debt counselling organizations, CAP focuses on more than the client’s finances. In addition to coaching clients on financial literacy and developing a plan to pay off debt; CAP volunteers visit clients at home, ensuring that the heat and electricity are on and that there is food in the fridge. They even bring bags of groceries to struggling individuals or families.

“Our most difficult cases are because of illness, job loss, or relationships have broken down. These are sad and difficult stories, and it can be incredibly difficult to get the help and support. Finding support is what Christmas is all about,” says MacLaughlin.

The holiday season reminds us that we do not have to bear hard times alone. It gives us a chance to look beyond that stack of bills as we re-build and make new connections with people.

So, leave those credit cards at home when you go Christmas shopping.

Your spouse would rather have a dollar store trinket you can afford, than watch you stress over how to pay January bills. Your kids would rather have laughter around the dinner table than listen to you complain about how much you spent on their presents.

A debt free Christmas – that’s worth celebrating.

Each week Jane Harris-Zsovan offers her readers practical money advice for the real world.

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