When the silly season rolls around, so too does the influx of propaganda brainwashing us with the concept that Christmas cheer and happiness is the by-product of spending money on things. In fact, it’s the clever and deliberate marketing that makes us feel somehow inadequate if our Christmas doesn’t look like the one in the supermarket catalogue. If that’s how YOU feel, then the marketing team has done their job well and retail outlets will likely exceed their sales targets for the December period – again.
So, when the holiday period rolls around and the pressure and expectations of the season build-up, how do you handle the financial stress that so many Australian families feel every year? Here are a few tips and ideas that might help alleviate some of the pressures:
Don’t exchange life for things – American philosopher Henry David Thoreau famously said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” This idea reflects the concept that although we measure the value of possessions in dollars and cents, it’s actually the time from our lives that it takes us to get that money to make the purchases that are the real cost. The stress caused by this effort is almost never mitigated by the happiness we hope to create through our purchases.
Keep things in perspective – As I wrote about in a previous blog about family chaos, it’s important to keep things in perspective. This year, countless families are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one. Your kids, your siblings, your parents, and your friends just want you. You simply being present and happy is the single most important thing this Christmas, not how many things you can buy.
Budget for Christmas – Although it might be a bit late to alleviate the pressure this year, you can do something about it for next year. I get it, not everyone is great at saving or sticking to a budget. We know that it’s the right thing to do but you’ve also got to be ready to commit to reining things in a bit. However, it is definitely the little things that add up. $20 per week over the course of a year will give you an extra $1k at a hard time of year. $50 per week adds up to $2.5k. Open an account that you can’t touch and don’t even think about it.
Live within your means – Don’t fall into the trap of spending money that you don’t have this Christmas. There are countless shonky lenders that promise fast easy money with minimal credit checks just waiting for someone like you to take advantage of. It’s also far too easy to apply for a big fat credit card at the push of a button. However, the short-lived dopamine hit that you get from feeling like you’ve done good doesn’t help while spending the next 6 months trying to pay off the debt that you’ve racked up. This often becomes a yearly cycle.
- Collaborate – Instead of putting the big Christmas on for everyone, you can still host, but plan it out with everyone else bringing along a plate to share. BYO drinks and you’ve got yourself a good time.
Hopefully, some of these ideas help you out this Christmas. The holidays don’t have to be a mammoth expense that leaves you in financial ruin into the new year. In general, winding things back and keeping it lean doesn’t mean you have to miss out this Christmas, but charging into the new year with a level of financial freedom will set you up for what is sure to be a cracker of a 2020.