I have a friend and a colleague who each year dreads Christmas. For her it reminds her of overspending on presents, having a meal over Xmas with temperamental relatives and sheer exhaustion – both physically and mentally after the event.
This made me think – why do we make our lives so difficult and in few cases miserable for a festival which is supposed to bring joy, happiness, sharing and giving?
So I got to thinking – what can we do individually and collectively to celebrate the festival in the spirit it is supposed to be promoting. There are some things in our control and some things we just have to trust the ‘higher being‘ to get right for us!
We can definitely do something about our overspending, exhaustion and to some extent even dealing with our temperamental relatives. In this article I will try and focus on sharing some of my own tips to minimise some of the overspending issues:
I start planning my Xmas in January (yes I do celebrate Xmas even though I am not a Christian by faith). What I mean by this is that I try and set a budget for my Xmas spending and then put aside regular amount each month towards that spending. No I don’t buy presents in January, I start saving in January! This way there is sufficient money in December to spend on presents. This saving also gives me flexibility to buy presents throughout the year during sale periods.
Remember, buying presents and giving is supposed to bring joy. If it turns out to be a painful experience, think again and look at changing your approach.
If you are in the habit of sharing gifts with friends and colleagues, try setting a limit on the amount each of you is allowed to spend. This way you will take away the competitiveness and encourage some creativity and thought into selecting presents for each other.
If you are thinking of ‘what shall I give to someone who has everything’, how about you discuss with them and see if you can support their favourite charity by giving a donation on their behalf, make something really nice for them or simply spend some quality time with them.
How about organising an informal ‘bring a plate’-style lunch this Christmas. You will kill two birds with one stone – cut down your workload and reduce your spending.
Those with children – be cautious. Make sure that you maintain a balance between the materialistic and sharing/giving approaches to Xmas. We always encouraged our daughter to make things, not buy things. Some of her presents are still very treasured by us all. When she was financially independent, she started making her own decisions on presents encouraged and advised by us.
General rule of thumb has always been: spend on presents by all means, but don’t borrow and spend.
Dr Pushpa Wood ONZM
Director, Westpac Massey Fin-Ed Centre