How can I save in the holiday season?

It’s the holiday season! The most wonderful time of the year… At least, that’s what I keep telling myself as we watch The Million in this Queensland heat!

But the most wonderful time of the year can involve a lot of waste.

Every year in the UK alone, Cloud Sustainability reports, some 74 million mince pies are thrown away. As are 500 tonnes of Christmas tree lights.

Lining up every Christmas tree bought in a single year in the UK would give you a line the equivalent of a round trip to New York. And, the Guardian reports, enough wrapping paper is thrown away to circle the equator. Not once. Not twice. But nine times. And that is just the UK’s supply.

Yesterday while finishing up some gift shopping, I got to thinking about what the ‘silly season’ means. And, how we can avoid waste, save, and enjoy the holiday season.

Enrichmentality now has a wealth of posts – 130 in total. So I thought, what better time than the end of the year to delve into some of them?

Kids and Gifts

Christmas, it’s often said, is all about the kids. Kids are warned that Santa Claus is ‘making a list, and checking it twice’. This year, I’ve even seen ‘security cameras‘ with a direct link to the North Pole to ensure that children are nice rather than naughty.

The story can be a helpful technique for parents to ensure their children behave (at least for a month!). But it also raises some awkward questions. Kids compare what they got from ‘Santa’. And of course, it does not follow that the kids who receive the best or the most presents are the best behaved.

If you’d like some practical tips on the money messages we’re sending kids, check out my post ‘How do we talk about money (and debt) everyday?’. It doesn’t matter what the gift-giving traditions are in your home, or what holidays you celebrate. Make it clear that how much your kids receive is not a judgement of their value.

Make your holidays whole

The holidays should be a time of joy and togetherness. Not financial stress. But it’s also the time of year we hear constant messages to ‘buy, buy, buy‘. There’s family pressures, social expectations, and the media, too.

But holidays are supposed to be ‘holy’. The word ‘holiday’ (holy + day) goes back to the 14th Century. It means not only a ‘religious festival’ but a ‘day of exemption from labor and recreation’.

If you spend beyond your means, you’re essentially signing yourself up for more work. To work to pay off the goods you’ve bought. And then even more work to pay off the interest!

The word ‘holy’ itself means ‘consecrated, sacred, godly, ecclesiastical’. In pre-Christian times, it appears to have meant ‘preserved whole or intact’. The word is connected to the Old English and Old High German words for ‘health, happiness, good luck’.

This is what we should be concentrating on during the holidays: health (including a healthy bank account!), happiness, and glad tidings to all.

The first Christmas post on Enrichmentality was a guest post by ‘Good Nelly’. She gives some times on enjoying Christmas without getting into (or worsening) debt.

How your Christmas spend could cost you triple

When I introduced Good Nelly’s post back in 2016, I pointed out that up to two-thirds of shoppers don’t save anything for their holiday shopping, and a third rely on credit.

Things don’t appear to have improved: Last Christmas, in 2017, Australian’s racked up $28 billion (yes, that’s ‘billion’ with a ‘B’) in credit card debt.

That’s $3,679 per card holder, Nine News reported earlier this year.

The typical credit card interest rate is around 20%. So if you make only the minimum payments on this sum, you’ll wind up paying a whopping $6,840 in interest. In other words, that $100 gift card you bought on credit will wind up costing you almost $300. That new phone won’t be $1,000, but $3,000.

All this makes Good Nelly’s recommendations for a cheaper, more joyous Christmas more relevant than ever.

How to talk to your family

TIMING. It might be a bit late to change gifting for this year. But now is precisely the time to start thinking – and more importantly, talking – about next year. Nobody likes to finish off all their gift shopping and wrapping  only to be told, a week in advance ‘We’re doing a Kris Kringle’ or ‘No gifts!’ Ideally, this sort of thing should be decided a year in advance. (Taking into account that many savvy shoppers buy some of their gifts, wrapping and so on in the post-Christmas sales).

APPROACH. If you want to cut out or cut down on gifts, some of your family members may be relieved! Others may take a little more convincing. Consider how you might broach the subject with different people. Some may respond to the environmental impact of wasteful gifts. And some may be happy to focus on any children in the family. Others may prefer minimalism.

You may even find that cutting down, you enjoy what you have more. Think of the Dursley family in Harry Potter. Dudley gets so many birthday presents, he takes no notice of what they are, and just complains when there is less than last year. Minimalism also teaches us that the fewer things you have, the more you tend to appreciate them. Similarly, preparing your own food – at Christmas or throughout the year – can not only save you money but enhance your enjoyment and togetherness, too.

Takeaway message: In these last weeks of the year, think before you use plastic to pay for anything. There can be some advantages to using card if you have the funds available to immediately pay it off. Otherwise, consider making your card ‘holy’ this year – keep your credit limit as whole as possible.

Focus on the year ahead

What if, instead of starting the year with a whole heap of debt, you had a fully stocked freezer and a head start on your financial goals?

Take advantage of seasonal items. The week before Christmas, you’ll find turkeys selling for $50 each. A week later, you can find them on sale for u to 95% off. (We once bought a whole turkey, took it home and roasted it, then carved it up for sandwiches and froze the excess – all for $5!) If you enjoy mince pies, stock up after Christmas and have these as dessert whenever you like. I’ve bought whole boxes immediately after Christmas for as little as 15c.

Chocolate has a long shelf life. If you keep it in a cool dark place, there’s no reason it shouldn’t last. Why not try my advent calendar money mojo trick with a discount calendar?

However you spend the holidays, may the rest of 2018 be happy, healthy, and full of glad tidings for you and your loved ones. And, all the very best wishes for 2019!

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