Don’t give the gift of debt this holiday season

© Lev Olkha –

Ever notice how when celebrities strike it rich, they often talk about buying something for their mother or another family member? The gift of choice seems to be a great big house. But it could be something different.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade bought his mom not just a house, but an entire church in Chicago. Explaining his decision, Wade told the Associated Press: “It’s the dream of every man, every boy, to be able to give their mother everything they want. So that was my dream and this is her dream.”

Then there’s entertainment mogul P. Diddy, who this year purchased a $360,000 Maybach for his son’s 16th birthday.

Despite these extraordinary presents, homes remain the favored gift when people start living large. Even Internet celebs, one-hit wonders and overnight sensations — like Antoine Dodson of YouTube/”Bed Intruder” fame — want to get that “big house” for momma.

While such generosity is admirable on many levels, it’s also often financially foolish.


High rollers frequently think they’re giving their parents and others a slice of the good life. In reality, they’re giving what I call “the gift of debt.” That’s when someone “gives” a family member or friend something that winds up costing the recipient (or the gift-giver) way more money than either party ever imagined.

For instance, a house that’s a “gift” not only has to be furnished, it also comes with annual property taxes, insurance, maintenance expenses and often a mortgage as well. A luxury car given as a “present” nevertheless requires gas, tires, ongoing upkeep, car insurance, and quite possibly car payments too.

That’s why all gifts like homes, cars, etc. are “gifts of debt” because they require ongoing costs, additional expenses or upkeep that most recipients simply can’t pay on their own.

You might not be a “baller” with deep pockets. But with Black Friday approaching, and the holiday shopping season already in full swing, you may be tempted to do some serious spending of your own.

“But if you give someone an extravagant gift, and you put them in a position where maintaining that gift doesn’t fit their budget, then you’re really not helping them,” says Stacey Tisdale, author of The True Cost of Happiness: The Real Story Behind Managing Your Money and the creator of Winning Plays, a life skills and financial literacy program for teens.

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