Dollars and sense: Taking care of business at Christmas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2007

By WILLIAM RUPP / Guest Columnist

I love Christmas. I love being with my family and just slowing down enough to thank God for the gift of the Christ child.

From this gift, somehow, Christmas became the reason to pass gifts to those we love, those that bring so much joy to our lives. And the merchants rejoiced.

Then somehow this gift giving season became the buying season. Marketers were telling me what would make my loved ones happy.

I bought into it. They had me, and I had to respond. My wife needed jewelry, and my son needed a iPod, a Wii and Guitar Hero.

The marketers were happy. My $500 budget exploded to $5,000.

Suddenly, deep in debt and guilt, I woke up and I was no longer looking forward to the season, but to the season being over and quickly.

The joy that was Christmas retreated into personal frustration. Now what am I to do?

In the spirit of Christmas, here is my gift to you.

First, keep it in perspective. You give at the office to those who make you look good. You give to your clients who trust you with their business.

You give to those public servants who deliver your mail, answer your questions at city hall, and serve you in the legislature.

Gift giving is not about guilt, nor is it about creating an obligation. It’s about the giving – a selfless authentic act of kindness. It’s about heartfelt gratitude – realizing I’m giving this gift without expectation.

A gift given in sincere appreciation and love serves to bless the giver and receiver. Simply put, financial or emotional debt robs the joy of Christmas.

Second, keep it simple. Don’t spend more than you plan, and always have a plan. My mother would buy family gifts all year long.

She kept to the budget by simply buying at major store sales, yard sales, and thrift stores. Keeping the plan keeps you out of debt.

Third, keep it joyful. Remember the Wisemen – when they saw the star they rejoiced with great joy.

They practiced smart business – they recognized the sign, they acquired gifts, they traveled a great distance, and gave gifts.

No debt, no guilt, no frustration … just peace on earth, goodwill toward all.

Merry Christmas.

William Rupp is dean of the University of Montevallo’s Michael

E. Stephens College of Business