TODAY   |  November 26, 2012

Say ‘no!’ to debt: Give holiday gifts that matter

Mary Hunt, author of “Debt-Proof Your Christmas: Celebrating the Holidays without Breaking the Bank,” and TODAY financial editor Jean Chatzky share how to take more control of your money and focus on gifts that people will really remember if you’re already starting to feel stressed about holiday spending.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

a 600 horsepower sports coupe that likes to hug curves. your curves. smooth, rich, never bitter, gevalia.

>>> we are back with more of "today" on this cyber monday. tis the season to shop till you drop .

>> you probably hit the stores over the weekend or plan on sitting at your computer taking advantage of cyber sales.

>> before you dig yourself in debt, mary hunt is author of "debt proof your christmas ," jean is today's financial editor. welcome, ladies.

>> thank you.

>> this came from a good place. you wanted to make sure your boys had a good christmas . you decided you were going to pull your credit card out and go crazy. tell us what happened?

>> it was the worst christmas ever. a week until christmas , hadn't done enough shopping for my kids and christmas , hiding the bills, it was never enough.

>> how long ago was this?

>> 20 years ago.

>> it's easy with that credit card . you talk about in your book how we ignore christmas 11 months out of the year, then panic we're not prepared. right, jean, that's what happens?

>> that's what happens. think about cramming for any sort of a test. the closer you get to it, the more on edge and the worse the decisions are you make.

>> you weren't out of your debt like that, it took you 17 years to dig yourself out?

>> 12 years to create it, 13 years to get out. had i known then when i know now, it would have made it easier.

>> you've gone on to teach so many people how to get out of debt. it's remarkable.

>> the book is written in such a friendly way, it's not a financial book you need a degree to understand it. give everybody a few tips. everybody's facing that right now.

>> you have to realize stuff quickly fades, debt goes on forever. if you don't have the cash to pay, you need to find ways you can give gifts. that's what the book is about, it's not about not spending money. if you have a lot of cash, go for it. simple ways, family traditions , kids love to spend time with their family. it's not all about christmas morning . spread christmas out over the whole month, if you can. so many ideas to bring so much joy to your life without going into debt.

>> a lot of people watching this probably are in debt and the idea of digging out seems like an endless process.

>> it's one step at a time. there's no quick fix, but the really good news is we've got academic research out of places like stanford and yale that show us it is the thought that counts. if you are receiving a gift, you do not care as much as the person who's giving it thinks that you do about what it costs and what you really want is something that's useful. so you don't have to go and spend crazy money on something lavish if a recipe is useful, a picture means something to you. i know it sounds cliche.

>> i think it's more than that. we want people to love us. i'll be honest, i wanted my children to love me and have the best memories and to be the parent of the year and for my friends to think i was wealthy. all of these crazy things. it was about me, wasn't so much about them.

>> that's my point.

>> i think the best gifts are the ones that are homemade. you don't tie a perceived value in dollars and cents. but if it's a treat from your kitchen you've put in a package or presentation.

>> time is a precious commodity.

>> it is. i think a gift is more like a messenger. it carries the good will i have for you. if i can tell you through that, hoda, i love you, you have made such a big change in my -- you really have, actually.

>> they've met many years ago. hoda was sweet to you, right?

>> total stranger on the streets of new york , ran into you, you were so kind to me. i'll never forget that, hoe dachlt.

>> that means a lot to me. i don't remember gifts i get, but i'll remember what you said to me. that's how it works.

>> that's what the book is about, it's not too late. we've got weeks until christmas .

>> five weeks until christmas , which is an awful lot of shopping time.

>> the best thing you can do to teach your children something, adopt a family or a home you read about in the newspaper or something like that. maybe have been through the storm this year, make a christmas for someone else. take your children with you to bring it to them. they will never forget that. thank you, ladies.