As we approach Christmas Eve 2021, it is important to remember that this has been a difficult year for many Americans.

Just as we start to believe the pandemic is under control, we see another surge in the virus. It has been a long two years and we are all ready for some sense of normalcy, but be careful when getting back together with friends and family.

Today, I think it might be a good time to revisit a very well-known short story. “The Gift of the Magi” was published in 1905. O. Henry wrote this story about a low-income couple approaching the Christmas Season. It illustrates the true meaning of Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, Della Young wanted desperately to buy her husband Jim a nice present. Money was very tight with Jim only earning $20 per week. This was a reduction from the $30.00 per week he had been earning. Della had tried to save for months when she went shopping, negotiating with the storekeepers for the lowest price. She only had saved $1.87 and she was desperate because Jim deserved something much more valuable.

Della did not own much and her only prized possession was her beautiful long hair. She put on her old coat and hat as she went out in the cold. She went to a hair goods shop and asked the owner if they would buy her hair.

When the owner saw how beautiful it was, she offered $20 for it. Della quickly accepted the offer and had her hair cut off, hoping Jim would still love her. She took the money and found Jim the perfect present for $21. This left her with 87 cents, but she had a present Jim deserved.

She waited for Jim to come home. She was afraid of what he would say about her hair. Unknown to Della, Jim had the same desire to surprise her with a nice gift. Since he did not have any more money in the budget, he decided that he would sell his most valuable possession. When Jim arrived home, he was shocked to see Della without her beautiful hair. She assured him that it would grow back soon. He gave her the gift he bought – a set of shell and jewel hair combs. Della had admired them, but never thought they could afford these combs.

She was anxious to give him his gift – a silver chain for his prized pocket watch that had belonged to his father and grandfather. She said, “This will look so great on your watch.” Jim said, let’s have supper and look at our presents a little later.

Yes, he had sold his watch to buy Della her present.

Their love was strong, but they both received a gift they could not use and that could not be returned.

This season as you buy gifts for your loved ones, you need to consider many factors besides just picking out the gift. Does it fit your budget? Can you pay cash or pay off the credit card in full when the statement comes in? Maybe the gift does not need to be the most expensive to show how you feel? This year has been rough financially, and in other ways, for many people. This year you must be more prepared for the unknown than ever before. Make sure your holiday shopping fits into your household budget.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday season.

Your Financial Future is written by certified financial planner Gary W. Boatman, MBA and CFP, who also wrote the book, “Your Financial Compass: Safe Passage Through The Turbulent Waters of Taxes, Income Planning and Market Volatility.” If there is an area that you would like to see discussed in the column, send your suggestions to gary@BoatmanWealthManagement.com.

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