Are you stuffing your own stocking?

It’s so tempting. You’re shopping for the holidays, and you see so much you want. So you buy something for someone on your list and stuff something in the shopping cart for yourself.

Well, you are not alone. An annual holiday spending survey by the National Retail Federation found that the self-giving is on the rise. This season, consumers are expected to spend the most on non-gift items in the survey’s 10-year history. Six in 10 shoppers said they plan to spend an average of $139.92 on “self-gifting” this holiday season.

The number of people who said they plan to purchase stuff for themselves during the holiday season has been climbing steadily from 51 percent in 2004 (when the question was first asked) to nearly 60 percent last year, reports Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post.

“Fifty years ago if you asked people, ‘Is it appropriate to buy yourself a gift?’ They would have said: ‘Wrong,” said Adam Hanft, a branding and marketing consultant. “Now a huge number says it’s right. I think that’s a sea change in values.”

As Boorstein writes: “Kit Yarrow, a Golden Gate University professor of business and psychology, said marketers have ‘hammered home the point that: You deserve something.’ For previous generations, gratitude had a bigger role in gift-giving.”

My Gift to You

As a token of my appreciation to you, I’m giving away books left over from my Color of Money Book Club. I ask publishers to donate a certain number books that are then randomly given away each month. But often the publishers are much more generous and send more than requested. So, as I have done in years past, I stockpile the books for what has now become an annual Color of Money Book Club giveaway at the end of the year.

Supplies are limited, and I can’t promise a specific title. If you win and get a book you’re not particularly interested in, please pass it along to someone who you know would benefit from the information. To be considered for one of the free books, send your full name, city and state to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “2012 Color of Money Book Club Holiday Giveaway” in the subject line.

Monday Morning Money Quarterback

Consider this to be an invitation to a group participation. I’d like you to play Monday (or, in this case, Thursday) Morning quarterback and weigh in on how you would answer two people with financial dilemmas. The questions were submitted in letters to syndicated advice columnist Amy Dickinson.

In the first letter, a wife wants to know how to deal with her spendthrift husband. The husband likes to buy the latest electronics and says his job in information technology rationalizes the purchases. “He has two motorcycles, five trucks, three boats and two wood stoves,” the wife writes. “He now wants to buy a smart car (energy-efficient electric) on the basis that it is so much less expensive to operate than a gas car.”

The wife tells Amy, “I am drained and depressed by his actions, and I am considering moving out, in part so I can find somewhere to park. Any ideas?”

You’ll have to read what Amy suggested the wife should do.

The next letter writer, a bridesmaid, wanted advice on how to tell her friend, the bride-to-be, that she can’t afford the price of her friend’s out-of-town bachelorette party. The bridesmaid said that the bride-to-be initially chose a location that was convenient for a majority of the bridal party but then decided to move the party to a venue that was more expensive and would require air travel.

“How can I politely express that I cannot afford the expensive city without totally hijacking her planning process?” the friend asked.

Again, read what Amy said.

But I want to hear from you. What would your advice be to these two women? Send your responses to the Color of Money Question of the week to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Morning Money Quarterback” in the subject line.

Family Financial Fights

Do you have some family financial drama you want to resolve or avoid all together? If so, I can offer some advice on how to work through your issues.

Send your Family Financial Fight stories to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state and put “Family Finance” in the subject line.

Holiday Break

There will be no e-letter next week. I’m taking time off to celebrate the holidays with my family.

The e-letter will return Thursday, Jan. 3, when I’ll be hosting my first Color of Money online chat for 2013. My guest will be C.C. Chapman, author of the December Color of Money Book Club selection, “Amazing Things Will Happen: A Real-World Guide on Achieving Success and Happiness.”

Here’s the link to my review of the book.

If you can’t join me live, hope you can submit questions early or read the transcript later.

“Federal Reserve to the Rescue”

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “What do you think of the Fed’s move this week to stimulate the economy by linking its actions to specific economic targets?”

Here are some of your responses.

“While this action might be helpful to some segments of the population, it certainly is not helpful to senior citizens and people who are savers,” wrote Marie Weiss of Greenbelt, Md. “With interest rates so low on CDs and savings accounts, this segment of the population will continue to experience diminished revenues with no hope of staying even with inflation (even if inflation is at an historic low).”

Nicole Leonard of Baltimore said: “I think that even though the Federal Reserve is supposed to be detached from politics, they made this unprecedented move to try to give some assurances to the world and businesses in case Congress is unable to come up with a solution to the impending ‘fiscal cliff.’ There aren’t many preemptive moves that the Federal Reserve can make and I’m sure they are very aware of the economic devastation that will occur if Congress doesn’t stop playing chicken and solve this self made problem.”

Sandra Wade of Chapin, S.C., said low interest rates does nothing to address the issue that it’s much harder to get a mortgage.

“If lenders would find a middle ground on lending standards, we would see an improvement in the housing market, even if interest rates were a little higher,” Wade said. “This policy also kills the interest rates we get on savings, which will negatively impact us for years to come as there is no interest to compound. And though banks are borrowing at next to nothing, they have not lowered credit card interest. I’m not sure this is much of a ‘rescue.’”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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