Oh, Yes, We Need a Little Holiday Cheer — But Not a Lot of Debt


At our house, we’ve always loved decorating for the holidays  the lights, the tree, the mantle, the works. But this year when my wife came out of the attic in September balancing boxes of ornaments, I knew we’d entered a new realm.  


We’re not the only ones eager for some holiday cheer. Last week, the National Retail Federation forecasted this year’s holiday sales to increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019. 


Such a sharp increase in spending made me wonder: Collectively, are we turning to retail therapy to help cope with our feelings from a tough year? At our house, I think the answer might be yes. We’ve definitely spent more on decorations this year. And I’ve personally been tempted to spend more on gifts to lift the spirits of my family and friends.  


So what do we do with this desire to spend? Is there a way we can channel it in another direction to avoid overextending? To that end, the Van Cleve household has taken four steps to keep things in check this holiday season. While everyone and every family has a unique situation, read on for some universal guardrails that can help keep us all on track as we bask in the warm glow of the holidays — albeit a little bit longer than usual this year.   


  1. Double-check your budget. Before deciding on a gift spending limit, my wife and I sat down to take a close look at our finances. Our goal was to determine what we could reasonably afford without relying on credit. We, too, were impacted by COVID this year when my wife took a temporary pay cut and experienced a loss of certain benefits. Her pay has since returned to normal, but I am sensitive to the fact that this hasn’t been the case for many. Check out the USAA My Budget tool for help with an automated budget.  
  2. Consider reallocating some funds. In the absence of a large gathering  with a big accompanying grocery store bill  and the airfare we’d normally spend to visit family, we decided we could afford to spend a little more on gifts this year. I’m not claiming that material items bring lasting joy, but since our budget allows it this year, we want to do a little extra for one another, our kids and others. 
  3. Lend a hand. There are a lot of folks in need right now. Because we are currently doing OK, it’s our hearts desire to look for a need and fill it. Are there organizations or individuals you know of this season who could use some help?  
  4. Be grateful. 2020 has been a weird year, to say the least. We’ve struggled through a pandemic, political and social unrest, financial hardships, and for many, the loss of family and friends. But good happens among the bad. I’ve had more time at home with my family. Our next-door neighbors have become wonderful friends — and the joy of our friendship goes beyond any gifts we could buy. For us personally, this year has challenged our faith, and we’ve been forced to grow on our own more. We appreciate some of the little things we used to take for granted. The list goes on, but we’ve discovered many things to be thankful for instead of focusing on the negative things outside of our control.  


From my family and the USAA family to yours, may the 2020 holiday season be filled with good health, blessings, love, laughter and much joy.  


USAA believes the websites and resources used to gather this information are reliable; however, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of the information. 


275682 - 1220