- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I have the after-holiday blues.

This usually happens to me. I build up the holidays so much, then afterward I crash and burn. Now I’m getting the bills where we overspent just to make our children and other loved ones happy with presents.

I wish my husband and I knew how to make people happy without money. We have not paid our mortgage this month because we don’t have the money. My husband wants us to return some of the gifts we have the receipts for, including the $500 refrigerator we bought for my mother.

Ms. Vicki, I can’t bring myself to tell my mother we have to return the refrigerator. Where will she store her perishable items?

I don’t know what to do. I just know this is stressful. Some of our bill collectors are threatening to call my husband’s commander if we don’t pay.

I am also stressing out trying to find a job and day care for our youngest children. I’ve never worked before and my children have never had to stay with anyone besides me.

I hear there are places on base that will give us a loan or help on an emergency basis so we won’t lose our home. Can you give me the information? Thank you for your help. — After-Holiday Blues

Dear Blues,

You should immediately go to family services at your nearest base for financial and budget counseling.

Every year, I hear from people like you who overspend just to make other people happy. I hope you can adopt the thinking that the holidays are about spending time with family and friends. This should not cost you anything except for preparing great food.

For the next holiday, I think you should consider a volunteer activity for you and your family. It could be taking them to sing Christmas carols at a local nursing home, working at a food bank, etc. There are many activities and organizations that need your help.

Everyone I know, including our family, chose not to overspend this Christmas, but instead focus on the meaning for the season.

You purchased a $500 refrigerator for your mother, an item you could not afford. You also purchased other gifts that you are now regretting. Because of this, you are sinking in debt. Need I say more?

I think you’ve answered your question. If you have the receipts and can return some of these items, you should.

Statistics show this was one of the worst shopping seasons on record. It shows how tough our economy is on everyone right now. It’s not your responsibility to stimulate the economy in an unhealthy manner.

I’m not sure the military will provide a loan to assist you in this situation. However, I think you should call and find out their criteria and also let them help you with establishing a sensible budget and some financial counseling.

I regret that you are now in much debt and facing these tough decisions. Let me know what you decide.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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