For two weeks already, it’s been CRAZY in the city where I live in. Most of the supermarkets were filled with people who were buying food as if the Apocalypse was to strike us for good this time. Weird thing is many of the stores will be closed ONLY on December 25th and January 1st, so we’re talking 24 hours only.
No family has to stock up on food and other items for longer than 24 hours, since many of the big stores will open the second day of Christmas and on January 2nd.
And yet people are buying like crazy, just because we’ve been conditioned by the media in the past years that we have to celebrate the ‘proper way‘. This is a time when financial independence, paying off debt, saving money etc. are forgotten, just because we can’t buy or eat less than the Joneses next door, or otherwise .. ‘what will people say?”.
You can’t eat with 2 mouths
This is one of the expressions that always make me smile, it’s what my folks usually say, when seeing how the ‘termites’ in the stores buy food to last them for 6 months at least. Even when money was tight, my family always made an effort for us to be well fed. We didn’t go out to eat, so cooking at home not only saved us money, but allowed to us control our ingredients and eat healthy nutritious food.
Weird enough, once you have made an effort all throughout the year to get a decent nutrition, there’s not much you can change on Christmas or New Year’s Eve. I mean we do eat a piece of cake anytime of the year, if we feel like it, we cook pork almost daily (pork is a staple in Romanian cuisine, we cook this more than poultry or veal) and fruits are ALWAYS in the daily menu.
Ah, OK, we might indulge in 2-3 extra menu items (which are specific for this time of the year), but this still doesn’t explain purchasing food for an entire army. You really don’t need to buy 5 carts of food just to make a salad or some special roast.
The presents are OK until a certain age
When I was a kid I LOVED Christmas (it was my favorite holiday) and was thrilled to get a present (or more). As I grew up I stopped enjoying this as much as before. Now, if I need something, I buy it myself. I have my own ‘ways’ and preferences and it’s pretty difficult (seeing how many items of the same type are now on the market) for someone to have a magic ball and ‘see’ what I really want. So, if I do need a gadget or some clothing, I can surely find the stores myself.
Same with gifting my folks. All throughout the year I make sure my family has what they need. If they need something in February, I don’t wait till Easter or Christmas to buy the item, I just go to the store and come back home with what I know they wanted/needed. So, instead of wasting money these days on all kinds of useless crap they probably don’t need/want, I make sure they don’t have any problems any time of the year.
While I don’t see the need to give/receive gifts for adults (at least we don’t feel it), as soon as our daughter will grow a little older (2-3 years), we’ll make sure to reinstate the Christmas ‘wonderland’ in the household. We do want her to have a happy childhood and won’t deprive her of Santa and the presents.
Sure, our job as parents is to make sure she’s happy and well taken care of during the entire year, but Christmas for kids is magical and she’ll get the whole experience. Again, this doesn’t mean breaking the bank or going into debt, you can provide your kids with a wonderful holiday and still do well financially afterward.
Understand what works FOR YOU and not what people think
We’re having a pretty ‘frugal’ holiday season this year and try to save money more. This doesn’t mean we won’t eat or relax, but it does mean we don’t spend money on decorations, fancy New Year’s Meals or ski trips during the holidays. February comes to us with a lot of challenges: our daughter will be born, the birth will cost us quite a bit and so will the stem cells storing contract we signed few days ago, we’ll have her christening in the summer and then an already booked August holiday (2 weeks in our favorite spot in Croatia).
Not to count all the other expenses we’d clearly need to cover for, business taxes, possible health costs and our focus on saving more money ‘on the long run’.
Sure, some people say we’re crazy to not go full ‘power’ during these days, but we do have plans that stretch further than the next day. Instead of wasting thousands of dollars now, just to show people how good we are with celebrating the Christmas and New Year’s, we’ll just keep our costs down, enjoy a good meal at home and get ready for more thrilling events than just stuffing our bellies for a week.
No matter what you do, don’t go into debt over Christmas
As I mentioned before, when I was younger, money was tight in my family. I was 12-13, when it was pretty rough and had to understand that we do need to spend less. My folks wouldn’t get into debt over a Christmas tree if someone threatened them with a loaded pistol, so we spent just what we could (and we couldn’t spend too much). Guess what, I didn’t have a shock or suffer because of it.
I understood that it was more important for us to ‘stretch’ as much as we could safely do and not start the year in debt.
Focus on providing your family with a nice frugal holiday (remember that presents are not more important than people and the time you spend together) and don’t take ANY loans/debt just for 1 week of fun. If you’re reading this blog you’re clearly struggling to pay off debt already or are debt free and would like to keep your hard earned financial independence. Don’t mess up months or even years of hard work and focus just to show off. You don’t have to prove anything and starting 2014 with debt (or more debt) is not a smart thing to do.
The economy is shitty in most of the countries, don’t expect miracles. You never know what happens tomorrow (and the history showed us we can really lose everything in a matter of hours/days), so don’t leave your family vulnerable just because you can’t spend the holidays without spending a lot of money you don’t really have right now (or shouldn’t squander).
The media here has been pushing a lot of advertising for all kinds of credit cards/loans to take during the holidays and some people are still lured in, only to curse the day they signed the papers, when pay time comes. And believe me that day comes pretty fast and it’s not gonna be nice.
So .. focus on your family, relax and eat a nice nutritious meal together. Give some well thought presents, if it’s important for your folks, cook some nice meals, but don’t go over board with anything. Not splurging today means you’ll start the next year with more money in your accounts. This translates into a bigger savings account (and it will be so useful if time gets rough), into paying debt faster or taking a nice vacation when you want it and on your own terms).
If we don’t ‘chat’ anymore these days, I do wish you a great time and hope to see you here soon.