I have a question for you. How can we spend less this Christmas?

Too many lightsDo you realise that the average Canadian will be spending $1300 per person this Christmas?  Think about that.  For a family of four, based on this figure, the Christmas expenditure could be over $5000, just for two days a year!  Why does our budget get so out of control?

Does any of the following seem familiar to you?

  • Buy a gift for every member of your immediate family
  • Buy an extra gift, for when you need it to give to someone who unexpectedly gives you a gift
  • Buy fresh produce that you wouldn’t normally buy because – well they are Christmassy!  Dates, nuts, citrus, – and watch them all go uneaten.
  • Buy food enough for 20 people when you are only expecting 10 – well, you are supposed to pig out at Christmas aren’t you?

We seem to lose our common sense at this time of year.  Maybe it’s because we are bombarded by advertising and marketing; children screaming about having the next ‘must-have’ item because their friends are getting it; pressure to make this the best Christmas ever and to do that we have to have things; too many lights on the house so the power bill goes through the roof!

Is there a solution?  Well, yes, but it is not easy and it requires imagination, planning, boundaries and will-power.  There are plenty of ideas out there and not all will work for you, but maybe one will.  Implement that and then do it again next year incorporating a new idea along the way.

Consider some of these options that I have seen suggested:

  • You really do not have to send a Christmas card to everyone in your family or in your office.  You really do not have to return a card with another card.  Scrutinize, and radically cull, your card list.
  • Only buy for the children in the family.  You might have to organise a family discussion about this very early in the year to make this work, and then work on reminding everyone as you get closer to the holiday. (OK if you are fortunate/unfortunate enough to have someone whose birthday lands within the Christmas period, I would suggest you don’t forgo their birthday present!)
  • Do you  normally make cakes, jams, chutneys or knit, sew etc?  Consider giving these instead of buying.  A homemade present, lovingly created, can be more appreciated because of the uniqueness and individuality of it.  Mind you, if you don’t normally make these things then to include them in your planning might cause more stress and strain than to not do them.
  • Consider not actually giving wrapped presents at all.  There are plenty of charities out there who are offering ‘gifts’ such as giving a cow/chickens/goat, wells for water, sponsoring a child.  For a few years in a row, I’ve used this option with my uncles and their family.
  • Only buy the food that will be eaten.  The shops will only be shut for a couple of days at the most.  Don’t buy for a whole week.
  • If you have several families coming together on one or two days, why not share the responsibility for both buying and cooking the items.  One person deals with the turkey, another the veg, another the dessert etc.  I’ve taken advantage of this for several years now.
  • Give of your own time.  Why not give away a ‘gift certificate’ gifting your time to do the garden,  or babysitting, or cook a meal.

What do you think?  Have you tried any of these?  

Do they work?  Any more ideas?

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About katehobbs

Mother to two who are now independant and living away from home. Wife to Steve, for the last 26yrs and looking forward to many more years. I have enjoyed 18 months in the Okanagan, something that I have longed to have the opportunity to do for a while. Living a dream, you could say. Now, I am interning with Living Waters Canada based in Vancouver until end of April 2013. I love to grow my own food - it tastes so much better. I also build up, train and encourage others to achieve more than they thought possible.
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13 Responses to I have a question for you. How can we spend less this Christmas?

  1. thankfully neither of us has to buy for anyone except each other, and i don’t do cards for the most part so we don’t spend much. even when we were around family we kept things to a minimum. we drew names so we only had to buy for one family member.

  2. rutheh says:

    What a good question this time of year!

  3. Jude says:

    Well Kate I guess as I’ve got older I’ve come to question things more. One of my favorite thoughts is: ‘Where’s the book that says I must do something a certain way?’ Usually these situations are to do with long-standing traditions, or ‘expected’ ways of responding to a particular set of (social?) circumstances. I’ve started to question the common sense and practicality of responding in the expected way. And I’ve stepped out of the box.
    I think too many people just cave in to following the herd. Some never question it and some question it in their minds but can’t see how they can get out of it. Christmas is a huge emotional trap. School-age children see adverts for expensive toys and some parents say they can have them. Those children tell their friends what they’re going to be getting (often termed as the ‘Must Have’ Christmas present this year). The friends then expect their own parents (who may be far less well-off parents) to stump up for the same gift. A lot of the parents will suffer the same ‘peer/parent pressure’ and feel bound to buy little Susie the latest i-pad. We hear of people loading their credit cards and taking a year to pay them off – all for what? Because they just can’t see how they can escape it. This is not a criticism of people. I think the pressure is just too great, especially if you have young children.
    We changed many things when we retired to France. We don’t buy presents for anyone. I make my own cards and only send to those abroad – and to people I really want to connect with. You could say we’re a right pair of old Bah-Humbug Skinflints! But I also believe there’s a kind of honesty in doing things the way we truly want to. I think, and hope, people respect that.

    • katehobbs says:

      Hi Jude
      So glad that you commented here. I love to hear your viewpoint.

      The pressures on parents is far too great. I completely agree with that. It takes a very strong parent to not bend to that pressure. And the marketers know this. I find it a bit unethical to be honest.
      I love that your new life has given you the opportunity to do things differently. I feel exactly the same having made the move to Canada. The expectations are so different – because the people here do not know what to expect of me!! I can do things in a different way.

      I love your last sentence. We have to be true to our own values and beliefs otherwise we are living a lie – one demanded of us by society. I’m going to be doing this differently this year.

      Thankyou Jude.

  4. I really like all of those ideas! I’m only 11 so I don’t have quite as much experience with everything but I know I’ll be thinking about these for awhile!

    If I make a card for anyone it’s usually hand made, although I don’t think that would go over well with an employee :).

    I’m not an extremely creative person but I have tried origami. Thanks for the ideas!

    • katehobbs says:

      I’m sure mum and dad understand a little of the pressure.
      I think that you should keep creating. I remember when I was your age, we would buy cards that needed colouring in and we would give those away at Christmas.
      Making things like cakes and giving them away, or making things like chocolates to give as gifts are wonderful things to do – if you are allowed in the kitchen.
      I love to receive chocolates and to know that they are handmade, with much love, makes the gift extra special.

      By the way, I’m from England and currently live in Vancouver, so if my spelling is different from yours, please forgive me 🙂
      Kate

  5. One year we gave a charity cow / chicken kind of gift (in the person’s name) to a relative who really had no needs. The person smiled and said thank you but was obviously disappointed and perhaps even insulted. So you need to know that the contribution type of gift will really be appreciated.

    • katehobbs says:

      That is definitely true. This is where announcing plans early in advance might be a good idea, but it is difficult to get it right for everyone. At the end of the day, I suspect that it is up to me and my conscience. If done in humility and with integrity, then any reaction will be down to the other person, and then that becomes their issue I suspect.
      It’s still a difficult one, with no ideal answer.
      Thanks Lilly.

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