Black Friday is behind us already and Christmas season is in full swing. There's still time to sidestep your bank balance being drained totally by Santa and his evil helpers.
Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. Everything from the fragrance of pine trees and mulled wine to the family get-togethers.
However, the Commission for Financial Capability's personal finance lead Tom Hartmann points out the triple whammy of Christmas, holidays and back to school hits some families way too hard. Just when your credit card bill comes in from Christmas you need to buy school uniforms and stationery.
The constant pressure to spend money over the next month that stresses both haves and have nots. My answer to this is to centre Christmas around family traditions. Make new ones or adopt them from other families.
I posted on Facebook this week asking friends what they enjoyed most about Christmas and liked least. Only one adult replied that receiving presents was important. For all the others it was the simple stuff. Chilling out, Christmas carols, family stuff. Some enjoy buying and wrapping presents. I cannot remember one single really great present I received as a child, although there must have been some. But I can remember making home-made decorations and stringing them up, chopping a macrocarpa branch from a tree in the back hard and decorating it, and the trip to rooftop playground at Farmers to see Santa.
The big "hates" were the commercialism. The pressure to buy, buy, buy. Unlike me, some of my friends hate Christmas carols with a vengeance.
Nor are all the trimmings necessary for Christmas dinner. Trim them down. I dropped cranberry sauce and some of the other standard tick-box items years ago. It has taken the stress out of Christmas preparation for the sucker in the family it all falls on. A by-product is keeping more money in my wallet at Christmas.
Yes we do buy presents. But as a family we enjoy the hunt probably more than the actual purchasing on our "annual mall trip". We hit the mall, go off in separate directions for an hour, come back to discuss ideas over coffee, then spend wisely. No buying of presents just for the sake of it.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Inherited from my parents was the idea that as well as a main present, the tree is populated with second-hand treasures bought over the year. Thanks to our nation's growing concern about climate change, this approach has become a lot more mainstream.
As a result of Covid-19 I'm also looking for small presents with special meaning from local shops in my neighbourhood.
There are all sorts of ways to add excitement to Christmas for kids with a very small financial outlay. A home-made advent calendar, for example, is a great example. You only need envelopes pegged to a piece of string. One chocolate a day per child costs very little indeed.
Ask your friends about the Christmas traditions they love and borrow ones that suit you. Why not, for example, choose a date when you all get together and decorate the house? Hint, December 1 is a good day for that.
If you can stomach Christmas music, go onto Spotify or wherever you get your music from and make a yuletide playlist together as a family. I disappeared down the proverbial rabbit hole when looking into that this week, thanks to searching not just "Christmas", but "Weihnachten" and "Navidad" and in other languages. Roll over Mariah Carey and Frank Sinatra, I've discovered Wolfgang "Wolle" Petry and Luis Miguel, singling all the classics from my childhood such as Santa Claus Llegó a La Ciudad (Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town) and Morgen Kommt der Weihnachtsmann (Twinkle Little Star). You'll even find Christmas carols in Mandarin and just about any other language on Spotify.
If that's not your thing, google "Christmas traditions that cost nothing" for some wonderful ideas to draw your family away from conspicuous consumption at Christmas.