Christmas Sanity Clause

Published December 11, 1980. For almost two years now, I have had my hair cut by Derrell Rudd. Derrell has a knack not only of making you look good, but he can make you feel good as well. And like other barbers I have known, he has many interesting insights on life, including marriage.

A few days ago, I was having my hair cut. “Derrell,” I said, “you talk to many married men. What seems to be the number one problem in marriages today?”

He made two more snips with the scissors and then right on beat simply said, “Money.”

Derrell paused for a moment as he took a phone call, then returned and continued. “But,” he added, “it is not just how much a married couple earns. Many marital problems stem from the inability or unwillingness of married couples to discuss their finances and then spend their money in a rational way.”

It was difficult trying to cross State Street in Orem that Saturday afternoon.  This was due to the traffic from the annual Christmas shopping spree. I finally made it, and as Susan and I walked up and down the Mall doing our bit to add to Orem’s economy with our yearly Christmas purchases, I could not help but notice the almost feverish pitch with which people were buying gifts.

I also noticed that the purchases were not only for rather large amounts, but most of them were being bought on credit, with plastic credit cards. It seemed doubtful whether many if not most of the shoppers could afford the numerous, expensive gifts they were adding to their charge accounts.

We returned home, and later that evening I read a statement that reminded me of Derrell’s earlier observation. In the book “The Individual Marriage and the Family,” Lloyd Saxton notes, “All recent studies (on marriage) indicate that married couples quarrel over money more than anything else, that economic factors are closely related to marital stability and critical to marital adjustments.”

Saxton further states, “Married couples quarrel both about (1) the allocation of present spending and who should spend how much for what and (2) how to pay the monthly bills for things they’ve already bought.” In essence, they are part of the Christmas crowd I had witnessed earlier that day madly making their purchases on credit. Again, I reflected on Derrell’s insight.

Those who want to make the most of their purchases with credit cards may want to consider not only Saxton’s observation, but also think about the following poem by Lyla Blake Ward. It is titled “Owed to a Charge Account.”

            O little plate.
            O wondrous card,
            I look at you with high regard.
            Without your help I could not own.
            A winter coat or telephone;
            I doubt if I’d have seeds for grass
            Or fifteen gallons worth of gas;
            The credit you extend for dining.
            Enables me to eat by signing;
            You’re always willing to award
            Me luxuries I can’t afford;
            And giving credit where it’s due
            All things I have. I owe to you!

Perhaps we could approach Christmas, and marriage, with a little more sanity if we all could learn to do without some of the things we never had a right to expect in the first place.

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