As someone who has always kept a close eye on their money I’m a big advocate of saving. However my reaction to this morning’s BBC post on “Households Urged to Start Saving Now for Next Christmas” was frustration rather than relief. On a day where we learned that average rail fares are going up by 3.4% (the biggest increase to fares since 2013), a debt charity have advised low-earning consumers to consider joining a credit union to allow them to start saving for Christmas. A date that is currently 356 days away!
“At the start of this New Year, when resolutions are being made, I would encourage everyone to look at their personal finances and make a plan if they can for 2018 – set a household budget, look at joining a credit union in preparation for next Christmas, and seek free advice at www.nationaldebtline.org if you are struggling to cope,” said Joanna Elson, chief executive of the MAT.
I wholeheartedly agreed with the initial advice from the Money Advice Trust (MAT) around recommending people consider their personal finances and budget for the year ahead. But rather than the problem lying with people failing to save an adequate amount of money Christmas, I believe the problem lies with the amount they feel the need to spend. It’s somehow become a cultural norm to lavish our loved ones with expensive items and I’m finding the whole charade more and more ridiculous.
My partner has never been keen on gifts – his reasoning being that if he wanted something he’d have already bought it himself! Moving several times over the past few years has also gives us a great appreciation for the amount of belongings we already own, and we’re in no great rush to gain any more. However, I do enjoy surprises so our compromise for the past few years has been to spend £25 each on a selection of food items. I still get the surprise of presents and a few weeks later a slightly plumper stomach is the only remaining trace!
I don’t have any children but I can appreciate the difficulty that must come when your child is exposed to adverts, TV and films – consequently building up certain expectations in response. But it’s the sheer amount which people are given that seems so excessive, especially when all those involved are adults. That isn’t to say I think no presents should be given, but I believe they should be low-cost, thoughtful items. One year we made my partner’s Grandma a homemade calendar and another year we created a family tree. The tree is still proudly displayed on her wall and cost us less than £15 to make, but she was touched by the effort we had spent on making it.
Rather than giving people objects, why not give people time? Make a handmade card, bake some delicious festive treats, craft a homemade gift or create your own homemade gift vouchers. Most of all don’t get yourself into financial difficulties trying to deliver a perfect vision of Christmas when you’re creating trouble for yourself in the new year.
I was pleased to see a Facebook post from MoneySavingExpert.com on Christmas Eve advising people who were getting stressed about needing to buy more presents to just stop. To give themselves a better New Year by halting the spending and choosing to spend that time they would have spent shopping with their families. Adverts are designed to make money, they tell us that we can buy love and gratitude with products. But you don’t need a credit card to show you care and you don’t need a credit union to have an affordable Christmas.
What are your thoughts on Christmas spending? Let me know in the comments.