Holiday Winners, Losers, And The Vicious Cycle Of Debt

by : Jim Vrana

Holiday shopping brings bargain hunters and retail outlets together to fight it out over the once mighty dollar. As always, there are winners and losers in this economic game. The winners from the business side are the retailers that met or exceeded their sales expectations. The winners from the consumer's side are those of us who did not overspend, or break our holiday shopping budget. Of course, you must first need to know what your holiday shopping budget is in order to know if you have won that game.

The losers on the business side are the retailer who did not meet their sales expectations. Of this group, the big losers are the small, locally owned shops without any corporate backing. This group must find ways to pay for excess inventory, and extra hours worked by their employees. Unfortunately, this could mean borrowing money. Which of course leads to further reductions to the bottom line in the form of increased interest payments.

Another unfortunate occurrence is when these small retailers no longer can obtain a quick loan, or cannot receive more credit from their vendors. They may turn to business credit cards to "bail them out". This is a huge gamble, as credit cards usually carry higher interest rates that can increase at any time, just because the bank wants them to. Businesses that use credit cards to fund parts of their business operations are setting themselves up for a vicious cycle of debt. This should always be avoided.

As for the consumers, the losers of course are those who overspend on holiday gifts. The biggest losers are those who overspend using their credit cards, and do not immediately pay them off. Even while paying a bit more than the monthly minimum, after adding interest and fees, it could take months, or even years to pay off just one season of holiday shopping. And we start this all over again in less than 11 months.

What about those consumers who did not break their holiday spending budget? Did they win? Well if they shopped using cash, checks, or debt cards, then yes, they are the winners. However, if their spending budget was based on the fact that they could charge their purchases, and make small monthly payments, then they too are losers in this game. Interest on the debt built up over the gift giving season can easily break anyone's budget. Most people do not stop to calculate the interest paid on specific purchases, and the banks will not help you do this. For too many people, the finance charge on their monthly statement is just another line item. Just part of life, or part of their expenses that can't be avoided. We get to pay that in small monthly payments too. Plus more interest.