The past few years have been challenging ones economically for both the nation and individual families. So, it is only natural that you may want to put the loss from your superannuation and other financial woes behind you and for one month reward yourself and your family with a special year-end spending spree.
According to a Commonwealth Bank (CBA) estimate, our total spending last Christmas was in excess of $16 billion, or $990 for each adult Australian. Gifts are the biggest expense, with each adult spending an average $475. But add to this the standard Christmas holiday ($1150) for some 3 million who plan to take one, and you have a large spend per person.
Assessing The Cost
Here’s the bottom line: How many days will you have to work in order to pay for your Christmas splurge and holiday? Andrew Pryor, in an article “Managing The Cost Of Christmas Present,” provides this helpful formula.
Estimate how much you normally spend on Christmas including not only gifts but also other expenses such as cards, post, lights, decorations and outings. Next, apply your hourly pay rate across an average seven-and-a-half-hour day and see how long it will take you to pay it off. Based on the 2012 median weekly income of about $A950 (most earn less than this), you’ll be working at least 56 hours or up to one-and-a-half weeks just to pay for your Christmas largesse and indulgence.
And that’s just “Christmas”; you still have your regular expenses. So plan on paying off Christmas for the whole of the next month! According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics report, the average household in Australia spends $1235 per week on goods and services and, it would appear, much of that at Christmas time. So before you launch into an all out spending splurge this Christmas, consider the overall financial price you will pay, especially if you fund it from credit cards.
But there are things you can do to make Christmas great yet minimise the damage to your budget and have a Christmas you and your family will enjoy. Here are a few suggestions:
An Extraordinary Gift
If circumstances have made it impossible to afford presents this year, then use your time to make a gift that is fun and unique.
For example, people love biscuits, made from scratch from your own kitchen. Anyone can make biscuits from a packet, but only you make chocolate chip cookies the way your favourite aunt did. Your family members and relatives who’ve tasted Aunt Mary’s biscuits in the past will thank you sincerely for resurrecting the recipe and filling the house with the delightful aroma once again.
Take some of the biscuits to work. Your fellow employees will also thank you because they know the taste of bought biscuits as compared to homemade ones.
Consumable gifts have many advantages over durable gifts and are a great gift idea for a number of reasons. Because they are usually eaten or used up immediately, they don’t have the expectation of being displayed and maintained in an already crowded home or stored for 12 months in the garage cupboard for re-gifting next year.
With these presents, you don’t have to be concerned if you are spending the appropriate amount of money for the recipient, which can take some of the joy out of giving. It’s your effort that counts. Also, you saved a few bucks making these gifts from scratch in your own kitchen—just try doing that at the mall and through the mail!
Shun Christmas Debt
Before you purchase even one gift or buy a decoration, take a few moments and plan your season’s budget.
List all those you intend to give gifts or cards to. Decide how much money your family can afford and divide appropriately among the recipients.
The bottom line is: Do not go into debt for Christmas and by doing so you honour your household budget. Remember, gifts are quickly forgotten, but the credit card bill goes on (almost) forever.
I loved a story in Mary Hunt’s Debt-Proof Living magazine in which a reader wrote about her best Christmas ever. It was the year that as a child, her father lost his job. But rather than complain about being poor and pitiful, he declared that everyone in the family would still exchange gifts. The catch was that they could spend no money at all!
Christmas morning was more magical than any she could recall. Her prize gift came from her father: a wristwatch he found in the garbage, lovingly disassembled, cleaned, repaired and polished to a more glorious condition than new.
Begin A Tradition
I personally believe the most memorable part of the Christmas season often revolves around those activities that have absolutely nothing to do with money or exchanging gifts.
It may include making a special family outing to pick your fresh Christmas tree or better still cutting your own tree at a Christmas tree farm. Or you may want to go carolling.
One year, our children had a paper house with windows that each day during December they could open and see another aspect of the Christmas story. Now that we have grandchildren we have a nativity set that they love putting together on Christmas Day. As a parent and a grandparent you can’t help enjoying their priceless childish anticipation.
The Ultimate Gift
Above all else this is the season to remind us that 2000 years ago our Heavenly Father poured out all heaven in one eternal gift, His Son, Jesus Christ. And through Him we have numerous gifts such as the gift of forgiveness, the gift of fellowship with Him, and the gift of life through His Son’s sacrifice. This year make it a point to share this most amazing and humbling gift of all, the Good News, with someone else.