Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Managing Your Finances At Christmastime

Managing Your Finances At Christmastime

Financial experts Scott and Bethany Palmer discuss how couples can communicate openly about their holiday budget while navigating Christmastime expenses, gift giving, expectations and feelings of entitlement in their kids.

Original Air Date: November 25, 2013


John Fuller: Well, as we wrap up November and head into December, it’s time! So, what’s on your Christmas wish list?


Man #1: For Christmas I want to be able to take my family to Disney World.

Woman #2: I would like a new bedroom set with big furniture.

Man #3: I’d like a hundred inch flat screen television.

Woman #2: I want a new iPad for Christmas.

End of Excerpt

John: All right, well, that’s quite a list and, uh, pretty big ticket items there. And I wonder if you have something, perhaps, a little more modest that you’re assembling. We’re going to talk about money, finances and gifts, on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller and it’s hard to believe, but Christmas is right around the corner and I’m just wondering, Jim, if you’ve needed any suggestions for my Christmas gift?

Jim Daly: (Laughing) Yeah, lay ’em out for me John.

John: I’ll let you know that.

Jim: Is it an iPad?

John: Well, I actually was the inspiration for everything we just heard there.

Jim: (Laughs) A 100-inch TV. I don’t know that I’ve [seen that]; is that common?

John: It’s gotta be rather unusual–

Jim: A 100-inch TV?

John: –and very expensive. Yeah.

Jim: That’s the size of a wall, isn’t it? But I bet football looks pretty good on that thing.

John: I’m sure it does.

Jim: Why don’t you put that on my list? (Laughing)

John: I’ll add that to your list.

Jim: You know, John, it is the holiday season when we talk about Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas right around the corner and then New Year’s. And couples seem to spend a lot of money this time of year and we want to talk about that today. How do we approach this time of year and do it in a way that leaves us with sanity on the other end when it comes January and we’re looking at the bills.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: And I think people will get some very helpful tips today.

John: Yeah, there really is a sense of , “Ooh!” what did we do last month when the bills start rolling in and Scott and Bethany Palmer have devoted their lives to helping us get a handle on this. They’re very popular as speakers and writers. They’re the “Money Couple.” One of their books is The Five Money Personalities, and we’re very glad to have them as neighbors here in Colorado Springs.


Jim: How would you like to be known as the “Money Couple?” I like that. (Laughter) Scott and Bethany, it’s great to have you back.

Mrs. Bethany Palmer: Does that mean we have a lot of it?

John: We’re hopin’.

Jim: Yeah, well I’m thinkin’ it’s just dripping from you.

Mr. Scott Palmer: Do you want a lot of it? How’s that work exactly? (Laughter)

Jim: Let’s hit some stats right out of the gate here. The average American spent, last year, $749.51 around Christmas. And U.S. parents spent an average of $271 per child. That seems about right. (Laughing).

John: Seems like a lot doesn’t it!

Jim: It does; it does. The country as a whole, we spent $579.8 billion on Christmas last year.

John: Wow!

Jim: That kind of makes your jaw drop, doesn’t it?

Bethany: It sure does. It’s big business.

Jim: That is —

Bethany: Big business.

Jim: –that’s almost 600 billion, half a trillion dollars —

Scott: Yeah.

Jim: –on Christmas gifts, I guess, and other things, but when you hear those stats as the Money Couple, what are you thinking? Is that normal or are we being a little too aggressive on our spending?

Scott: Well, I think, what I think of as family tension, because in all the work that Bethany and I have done with couples, one thing that we’ve found out is that we all have these different money personalities. And so, some money personalities live for Christmas; other money personalities are really gonna have a hard time with Christmas.

Jim: So the ones that enjoy may be the spenders?

Scott: Yes, the spenders–

Jim: I’m just guessing. (Chuckles)

Scott: –yeah, the spenders are in their spending zone. I mean the mall is decorated; everything looks like it’s on sale. What we find with spenders is they’re huge gift givers. So not only do they like to spend money, but when it comes to gift giving, that’s what they live for. Well, this is a holiday that’s all around gift giving and you think about Thanksgiving just being a month before Christmas, there’s opportunities to give there too. So, really what we have found is that these money personalities get so heightened in the holidays that couples really, really struggle and we’re losing what Christmas is really all about. We’re losing what Thanksgiving is really all about because one person is having the greatest time of their life and the other person is just becoming nasty.

Jim: Talk about the other personality types. So you have the spender. What are the other ones that are going to struggle?

Bethany: Well, there [are] five of them, so you have the spender and they’re like Scott said, all excited about it. But then you also have the saver and the saver gets really stressed out during the holidays because you’re supposed to be giving gifts and so their antennas are out everywhere to save and you’re supposed to be spending. So there’s a lot of tension for a saver.

Jim: Are they guilty on both ends? They feel guilty that they’re actually spending and then they feel guilty that they’re not wanting to spend.

Bethany: Absolutely, ’cause the saver is all about savings. They want to save themselves; they want other people to save. And that’s just not what the holidays are all about–

Jim: No.

Bethany: –often times. So there’s a lot of stress going on. We have, in the last 12,000 people, who have taken our money personality quiz, 60 percent of the people that took the quiz were primary saver or another money personality I’m going to talk about is security seeker.

Jim: Okay.

Bethany: So we have, and security seekers are people who always look for the future and they really want to make sure everything’s planned. Well, holidays are about spontaneity. So security seekers are stressed out during the holidays too. So if we have 60 percent of society [who] are savers or security seekers. The holidays aren’t always necessarily the most enjoyable time of the year.

Jim: I think a lot of people might be shocked at that number because I think we see ourselves mostly as spenders–

Bethany: Absolutely.

Jim: –and we talk about a consumer culture.

Bethany: Absolutely.

Jim: And so, I’m sure the retailers want us to think of ourselves as spenders.

Bethany: Yes, yes and the retailers say they want to position the things that they advertise as needs–

Scott: Uh-hm, yes.

Bethany: –instead of just wants. You need this; you have to have this. So there’s this pressure going on for savers and security seekers all through the holidays. You need this, I want this. And they’ve got a natural tendency. The way God has made them is to save. The way that God has made them is to think about the future. And so, that’s their natural bent. The holidays, necessarily, don’t always have that bent towards them. So that’s where that pressure comes in.

Jim: How do we process this from a Christian perspective? You’re touching on it in terms of what God expects of us.

Bethany: Yes.

Jim: Hit it directly. What does God expect of us when it comes to our wallets when it’s Christmas?

Bethany: Well, you know, what’s really important is that you understand who you are and that you go into the holidays understanding that. We started to talk about a saver and a spender and a security seeker, but we didn’t talk about the last two money personalities. And that’s a risk taker and a flyer. A risk taker person, especially in the holidays is like, “Let’s go for it, why not!” You know, getting the most unusual kind of gifts. And we all have those people who have to give unusual gifts.

Jim: Is that the person–

Bethany: They’re probably risk taker.

Jim: –is that person who might come home with tickets to Cabo San Lucas?

Bethany: Absolutely!

Jim: And, “Hey we’re going to Cabo for Christmas.”

Bethany: The big surprise!

Scott: That’s exactly what that —

Bethany: And they’re probably married to someone who’s exactly the opposite going, “I don’t want those Cabo tickets.”

Jim: So now we have a disagreement.

Bethany: Absolutely and see, that’s the problem. Now the last money personality is something called a “flyer.” Now the flyer is the person who flies by the seat of their pants when it comes to money and is really all about [saying] relationship is much more important than money. So, what’s interesting about a flyer at the holidays, the money component of the holidays is not on their radar. They’re more interested in making sure that the relationships around the are all well and fine.

Jim: What does that look like around the holidays, though? The flyer, how’s that expressing itself?

Bethany: Let’s make sure we’re getting’ together and havin’ parties and I don’t care how much it costs to have that party.

Jim: So let’s do the family reunion–

Bethany andScott: Absolutely!

Jim: –and I’ll even pay for your ticket.

Scott: Yep!

Bethany: Absolutely! Or we all need to make sure we’re together as a family. We need to fly and go see mom over in another state and who cares about the money part; we’ve got to be together. As a matter of fact, we recently were talking to a couple and that is their biggest stress right now in planning for the holidays, is because he is a flyer and he’s just like, “We’ve gotta be with our family. That’s the most important part of the holidays. We’ve gotta do that.” And she’s a saver. She’s going, “We can’t do that, it costs too much money!”

Jim: Well it —

Bethany: You’ve got that tension going on.

Jim: –what would you say to them though? Because I could hear that argument. I don’t think I’m a flyer —

Bethany: You’re a spender, probably.

Jim: –but I get the idea of being around family is important around the holidays, especially if you have kids. You want them to see grandma and grandpa. How would you go about undoing that knot?

Scott: I think it’s all about compromise. And I think what we tend to do is we kind of tend to put the holidays in their own category and not look at the rest of the year. Well, it’s Christmas we’ll worry about summer vacations, we’ll worry about the general what’s happening to our budget and our finances [later]. It’s Christmas; we don’t put that into our thought process.

Jim: So blind, just go blind.

Scott: It’s just most people put the blinders on and, you know, between Thanksgiving and Christmas they don’t think about it and then they get their bills in January and everybody freaks out together. And so, what we tell couples, and what we’ve seen work for this couple is, “Fine, if we’re gonna go at Christmas then that just means we’re not going there in June,” or over summer vacation. And so there’s gotta be that compromise, there’s gotta be the holistic, you know, what’s gonna work for me, what’s gonna work for you and then making sure that we’re getting on the same page and talking about it.

What happens so much is we just have these fights. One person just says, “I’m not gonna go see your mom. We’re gonna fly five people to see your mom at Christmas? Have her come here; it makes more sense.” “Well then my brother and sister are out there.” And then, you know, it just turns into these huge family arguments and we kill the holidays and we kill those family experiences. So really, sitting down, not getting upset about it and saying, “Hey, this is important to me. How can we make this work and what might I have to change or how do we want to rethink the summer even?”

Bethany: Another part to that is really seeing what’s real. What’s interesting about savers is that they want to save no matter how much money they have. They could have plenty of money in savings but you’re never saving enough. And so, in that situation with the couple, was it really real that they didn’t have enough money to do it? Was that what was real? Or was that she just felt like that was too extravagant? Or what’s really going on with this decision? So financially you need to look at what’s real.

And then for the relationship you need to see what’s real. So financially do we have enough money to do it? Yes. Now, does the relationship need us all to go out there? And one of the things that we do is we tend to mix those up, the finances and the money relationship. And really it’s two separate things. Having your financial house in order is crucial and important. We definitely would not deny that. But, we need to look at the relationship side and how is that impacting and are we taking the way that each of us look at money and taking that into consideration when we’re making our relationship decisions.

Scott: We had a family member, about six years ago, who just sent out an email that said, “No more gifts for each other.” Let’s just not do Christmas for each other.

Jim: I think we’ve sent that actually. Did you get that from us? (Laughter)

Scott: Yeah. Well actually I was, yeah,

John: He meant it for somebody else though.

Bethany: Oops!

Jim: Yeah, how’d you get copied? (Laughter)

Scott: Yeah, somehow we got cc’d on that. hope my response was okay to that. But, it was interesting because everybody else was like, well, we kind of like giving gifts. You know, but this was a saver. You know, not acting nasty or anything else, just saying, “Hey, let’s not worry about gifts. Everybody will save money if we do that.” But then the spenders on this side of the family were like, “Well we kind of like giving gifts and that’s kind of important to us.” And that’s just another great example of even in our family how one person making decisions for everybody else, trying to save them money, trying to be frugal, well, that’s not how we think. That’s not how our money personalities work. And it created this, kind of this weird, kind of awkward [situation]. We sent gifts anyway.

Bethany: And then they never do. Like, now wait a minute, okay.

Scott: But that’s, that’s okay. But that’s how the different money personalities work.

Jim: You’re obviously going to have to defend the comments later when they get a copy of the CD.

Scott: Yeah, (Laughs) I know.

Bethany: That’s right. (Laughter)

Jim: Get ready! (Laughs)

Bethany: We won’t say which side of the family.

Scott: They already know my opinion. I’m just glad I got to tell several million people about it.

Jim: But you know, you’re touching on something that’s really important, and it’s the way that money [talks about it]. The Scripture says the love of money is the root of all evil. And there’s something related there to where it drives our controlling component. That money, yeah, it is a controlling factor; perhaps the biggest controlling factor in our lives.

Scott: I love that you brought that up, because the type of love that he’s referencing in that verse is phileo; and so, for the love of money is the root of all evil. What that verse means to Bethany and I, and we talk about this all the time, is that when you’re putting money in front of relationships, it’s the root of all evil. When you’re putting money in front of making decisions that’s good for people in your relationship. Jesus is saying that is the root of all evil. That is the worst of the worst. And that’s why we’re so sensitive about it in relationship. It doesn’t matter if it a family, it doesn’t’ matter if it’s a business, it doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse. What we’re dealing with when it comes to money, those money issues, just bring out the best in us, but it can also really bring out the worst in us.

Jim: Right.

Bethany: And you know what he says, and I really want to emphasis that, it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil, because if money is the root of all evil, we’re in trouble, because we touch it every day. We can’t get away from it, but that love of money is crucial to understand and the kind of love of the relationship love and often times we do, we put our money over our relationship. If person comes off and says we are not giving gifts, no family member’s doing that. Is that looking at the relationship? Or is that looking [at] what your perspective of money is? And God talks about money more than just about any other subject in the Bible. He talks about it more than 2,300 times–

Jim: Hm.

Bethany: –and the reason is because He knew it was going to impact our relationships. And sometimes we want to take money and just put it in this financial category and do my checklist and then I’m this perfect Christian. But you know what? There’s so much more to money than that and how it impacts who we are and impacts our relationships.

Jim: Bethany, you said something I want to come back to when you talk about the personalities and the theme of your book. You can interpret what you said in terms of the love of money being the root of all evil, going back to the types of personality. So a person who’s a saver, it could be misconstrued that they love money because the want to save. And it isn’t necessarily a fit that way is it?

Bethany: No, not necessarily. What’s important to understand is that we have been given a God-given perspective of money. He has really cooked it inside of us. There’s not one perspective that’s wrong and one perspective that’s right. But He knew that it was going to impact our relationships and because of that, there’s this natural inborn tendency to think, “My way is the best way and your way is the wrong way.”

Here’s the other statistic that’s interesting. Seventy-five percent of us are married to our opposite. Now why is that? We were speaking to a large crowd not all that long ago and we asked it and then people were speaking out. But really it’s because opposites attract and money is no different. One of the things that I love about Scott is he has an opposite money personality than I do. Because everybody has two and our secondary ones are totally opposite. I’m a risk taker and Scott is a security seeker. So how does that play itself out in the holidays? Well, I’m like, “Let’s go for it! Why not? Susie needs this; let’s get it for her.” You know, “Let’s scrape!”

Scott: She would bring the tickets to Cabo. (Laughs)

Bethany: Yes, I would be that tickets to Cabo person.

Scott: And I would have a heart attack and totally freak out like, like “Are you kidding me?? We don’t have time to go to Cabo.” (Laughter)

Bethany: Right.

Jim: I hope those are refundable! (Laughter)

Bethany: Yes!

Scott: So …

Bethany: Exactly! Because the security seeker side of him looks this and sees how that’s going to impact our future–

Scott: It’s not part of the plan.

Bethany: –and it’s not part of the plan. So, you know, we have that same struggle that everybody else does. But because God has given us that perspective of money, we need to respect it and learn to appreciate the other person’s money personality. So Scott comes in and tells me about how everything’s planned out for our future and this is so great. I’m naturally not super-duper excited about that.

Jim: (Laughs)

Bethany: But I am because I want to speak his language. I want to be excited about it because that means a lot to him. He, now, has come to understand that some of the risk taking ideas that I have, or risk taking gifts that I want to give actually bring a lot of joy and kind of fun and spontaneity into our relationship. So, it’s that you’re attracted to it, but then you get married and you start resenting it, start holding on to who you are. But you know what? If we take this holiday season, look at who our spouse is and appreciate their gift giving style as a result as how they perceive money; wow, you’ll see the love grow. And that’s what we really want to do.

Jim: Well, it is fascinating. You actually answered the question I wanted to ask, which was this difference and why does God do this? But it’s fascinating that He seems to put in us as human beings that attraction to somebody who’s different.

Bethany: Absolutely.

Jim: And then those very differences are what create the friction in the marriage. So what do you think He’s getting at? Why do you think we do the things we do and irritate each other the way we do?

Scott: I really believe that the way that God did this and the way He created us was so that we could bring that balance in. We had a couple come up to us and they were engaged and they had gone through our money personality quiz and he kind of pulled me aside and was like, “Scott, listen, we are opposite. We’ve got four money personalities in our relationship. Are we doomed?” And I said, “Yes you are!”, “No.” (Laughter) I said–

Jim: You should have five.

Scott: –“Can you get the ring back?” (Laughter) No, what I said was, “No you’re not doomed. You just have to know, and that when you can learn to appreciate her money personalities and when you can learn to speak her money language and if she’s willing to do that for you, you guys are gonna have great well-rounded kids. You’re going to have the ability to look at things totally different. She’s gonna pull you along like Beth does with the risk taking; I’ve done stuff that I never would have done without Bethany,” probably the Money Couple being one of them, to be honest.

So Bethany has been able to pull me, but this young couple has an amazing future ahead of them because they’re going to have balance in that relationship. And so, we have literally spoken in front of hundreds of thousands of people and we’ve had one couple, because we always close our presentation when you take the money personality quiz, if you have the same primary and secondary personality as your spouse, please come talk to us. We’ve had one in the last five years that have come up and said we have the exact same money personality. So, it just shows you for 99.9 percent of America, we’re gonna have that money tension, we’re going to have that different money personality in our relationship. And really understanding why it’s a good thing and not a bad thing, can really bless you.

Jim: But how do you get started? What can you do if you’re anticipating another fight ’cause last year you went through it, and January was horrible. And you had to dig out of that for four or five months, what would you say to the couple now at the beginning of the holiday season what would you say we should do to avoid those things and give us the tools that we need to communicate?

Bethany: One of the things that is so important is to understand, because money impacts just about every decision and holidays is no different, it’s really important to understand who you are, who your spouse is and their perspective of money. If you don’t understand that, you’re constantly fighting against it because you can’t identify it. So we say, start with identifying what you’re primary and secondary money personalities are and talk about them.

But then one of the things that you can do is talk about the last holiday season because now you have a perspective. Now you know how you perceive money. So you can look back at the last argument that you had and identify where the conflicts came in with purpose, instead of just saying, “We’re just gonna go into this new holiday season and everything is gonna be different because we know our money personalities.”

No, you’ve gotta take some time and review the past and say, “Oh that’s what you meant. You didn’t mean that you wanted to go crazy with shopping and getting gifts for holiday. You just wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of. Okay, I get that.” So those conversations can happen if you reflect on the past.

Jim: In that context, let’s say we’ve, you know, we’ve done it, we’ve gone through the quiz and we’ve picked up the book, The Five Money Personalities; we’ve done it. What are then some practical things we do? Budgets, are they good or bad?

Scott: I don’t use the word “budget” anymore because for half of America budget is like a swear word—

Jim: Okay what’s the word—


Jim: –that you do use?

Scott: –I use cash-flow-worksheet.

Jim: (Laughing) Oh man.

Scott: It just sounds better doesn’t it?

Jim: That sounds MBA-ish!

Scott: I know it sounds more fun. But you know when it comes to the holidays and working through these cash-flow-worksheets and working through these different scenarios, you just have to put practical things in place. So let’s say you have a spender and a saver and it’s the holiday season. And you’ve sat down and you’ve said, “Okay this is what we’re gonna spend. We’re gonna spend, well, in your statistics, we’re going to spend $271 per child” and you agree on that, which sounds like a lot to me too, but whatever! So we decide we’re going to do $271 per child and we have two children.

If you’re gonna go over that budget or something comes up, you just include the person right away. You just call them. Bethany and I have a thing we do where if we’re going to spend over $150 on anything other than groceries—we have two boys so that’s a given—but if she’s going to go out and go shopping, or I’m going to go shopping and we are going to buy anything over $150, we take a picture with our phone and we text it and say, “Are you okay with this purchase?” And if it comes back “No” we don’t buy it. If it comes back “Let’s talk about it” we probably don’t get it. But occasionally it comes back “Yes.”

The same thing is true with Christmas. When doing the shopping, you can’t under-communicate what you’re buying. You can’t under-communicate what you want to do in this scenario and by communicating what you’re doing is you’re really respecting both people in that relationship and their money personality. So, we say absolutely make sure that you’re keeping in constant contact when you go shopping.

Jim: I’m thinking of that, and I think [for] a lot of couples it sounds exhausting, but the alternative of just going into debt over the holidays is far worse.

Scott: Absolutely or the fight that you’re gonna have or the fact that someone gets a gift on Christmas morning and you just can’t believe they got that and you never told me about that, “You just bought what for our son and you didn’t bring me up to speed on that?” And so, it takes away from that joy, so it takes two or three seconds to take a picture and text something. It takes less than a minute to call somebody and say, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking.” But [if] you have a major blowout at Christmas and you hurt your kids and you hurt your family around you and that’s what you remember, that’s not really where you need to be.

Jim: How do you balance that spontaneity though? I mean, I just did this. I was down in Florida and Jean’s birthday was around the corner and I knew that if I didn’t–she’s very difficult to buy for when it comes to apparel or accessories, but I’m always keeping my eye out–and I saw these purses that I thought she would like. And I’m thinking, “Okay I can buy this, but if I’ve made the wrong call, it’s a difficult return to go all the way back to Florida from Colorado,” So I did take a picture. I texted and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about this for your birthday.” Now a lot of people are gonna go “Oh.”

John: Not very romantic

Bethany: Takes the spontaneity out of it.

Jim: But Jean in her rational, scientific mind—she’s probably a saver I would think—but she said, “No, that’s okay; they’re great looking, and I love the stones in them and all that (chuckle)” but she said “We don’t need to spend it on that, I’ll find something here locally that I really like and you can buy it for me.” Now that sounds kind of, eh, a little lacking, but it does speak her language.

Bethany: Yes, and that’s the thing you spoke her language and you know it might not be exciting to you but you know what she probably felt really cared for because you did that. And one of the things that a lot of couples ask us about is spontaneity. I mean, “If I have to ask about it all the time it takes away the spontaneity.” Well, make sure you plan your spontaneity. In other words, talk about the dollar amounts that are appropriate for holidays, for each other before the actual holiday, because then you can spend it on whatever you want.

So the issue is, you get the spontaneous gift; the issue isn’t you spent too much or not enough or all that. You have a framework to work with. And there [are] a lot of money personalities, especially the spender, and the risk-taker, and the flyer, that need that sense of understanding what their limits are and if you don’t talk about it, then the person that they’re married to will probably be really upset because you overspent.

Jim: Bethany, in the book you talk about the money huddle. I’m an old quarterback, emphasis on old—

John: Old quarterback, in case people missed that (laughter)

Jim: —so I think I understand the concept of huddle, but what

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The 5 Money Personalities

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