Setting a Christmas Budget and Not Destroying the Planet

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Do you love the traditions of Christmas, get carried away with gift buying, and never stick to a Christmas budget?   This year, many families are going through a rough time.  There will be more difficulty getting to shopping malls, and unfortunately for many, financial strain.  Perhaps 2020 could be an opportunity to embrace a less commercial, more meaningful Christmas.

On Christmas day as kids, we were spoiled silly. My parents must have saved hard to provide the Christmas they imagined, as they weren’t wealthy.  We would wake on Christmas morning and launch into ripping gift wrap with wild abandon.  I barely stopped to see what each gift was before moving on to the next!

Yet, my warmest memories are of anticipation; decorating the tree and getting excited on Christmas eve.  Once, a reindeer shoe was dropped by the fireplace, another year there were sooty footprints on the hearth.  Now that’s Christmas magic!  I challenge you to think back to Christmas as a child, what gifts can you recall?  What are your fondest memories?

So often the “True meaning” of Christmas is lost in the highly marketed aspect.  For many, Christmas obviously has religious significance, but for our family it is about spending time together and slowing down.  As a parent, I have had to resist the tendency for stress over choosing presents and preparing food to destroy the day.

I have become convinced that family traditions, new and old, are what creates real Christmas magic.

christmas budget

How to Find the Meaning of Christmas Away from Family.

Healthcare professionals are often separated from their families by work over Christmas.  This year, even more families may be stranded apart for the festive season.

For those away from family this year, there are many ways to make sure you don’t miss out.  One trick is rescheduling Christmas for a time we can all spend together.  In 2020, Christmas in July may become more of an event, offering a semi-official chance to enjoy a novel cold Christmas together once COVID travel restrictions have passed.

If you are working this year, arrange a “Second Christmas” with your family.  But don’t worry, celebrating Christmas with your work family is often a lot of fun, and is great team bonding.

Celebrating Christmas At Work

There is a special atmosphere in hospitals at Christmas.

Wards often go to great (and competitive) lengths to decorate festively, with staff decked out in Christmas inspired uniforms.

Everyone generally brings a plate of something delicious, meaning most of us eat too much.  There may be even be bubbles in the form of soft drink!

Unfortunate patients who are stuck in hospital over Christmas appreciate the happy attitude and festive spirit staff bring to work.

The Secret Santa tradition often involves buying a lot of wasteful rubbish, but can help bond you into a new team.  Either opt out of the tradition or buy a consumable gift (coffee) unless you know the recipient well enough to buy something they will want and use.

Outside work, an “Orphans Christmas” is a regular hospital tradition for staff separated from their families.  Find out if anyone has organized it, or plan one yourself.  Ask everyone to bring a dish, meet at the beach, or home (ideally with a pool).

Christmas is a challenging and lonely time for many.  Try and find those going through difficult times, or feeling left out and make sure to include them.

christmas budget

Choosing Christmas Traditions

Traditions are so important at Christmas.  But they don’t need to be the same traditions you have always followed.  As your life situation changes, make new traditions that suit you.

Taking the kids on a Christmas eve decoration tour of our suburb has become an annual tradition in our house (although sometimes Christmas eve has to be rescheduled).

This year, we will start a new tradition of visiting the local Christmas tree farm to choose a real tree.

I used to enjoy a relaxing time decorating our tree to cheesy Christmas tunes and a glass of wine.  The kids now “help” decorate the tree while I enjoy a couple of wines.

The shopping centres are horrendous for the entire month of December.  With no parking, aggressive shoppers it becomes a pretty stressful experience.  I avoid when possible through December, doing my Christmas shopping online in recent years.  I may even get groceries delivered this year, to avoid the chaos.

Shopping malls sum up all the consumerism and waste that is wrong with Christmas (Bah Humbug!)  I hope by avoiding them I can get less sucked in.

Setting a Christmas Budget

No one should go into credit card debt for gifts, but unfortunately many do.  Do you know how much can you afford to spend?  It is easy to start swiping the credit card and worry about it later, but this will delay you reaching your bigger goals.  Are you saving for something more important?  Decide on your priorities, set and write down a budget, then split it between the following categories.  Old fashioned pen and paper, a note on your phone will do but there are also apps available that will keep a running total of your budget.

– Christmas Budget: Food

Are you hosting Christmas or have been invited to a friend or family’s home, what will you contribute?  If working, what will you take in? What about special goodies for home?

Many find spreading the cost over a few weekly shops more manageable, although it is likely this is just hiding how much you are spending.

You could use accumulated supermarket points to reduce the expense (you’re not flying anytime soon anyway).

Booze is probably a big expense category for Aussies.  Alcohol has become a huge part of our culture, dangerously for some.    Maybe splash out on smaller quantities of your favourite beverage and save some money (and your health) by having some alcohol free days.

christmas budget

– Christmas Budget: Decorating

If you don’t yet have a collection of decorations, think before you collect a load of rubbish you will later dump.

Consider going environmentally friendly and saving money at the same time.

Real trees can be brought in pots and kept alive to be reused each year, depending on your climate.

Recycling a plastic tree from an opportunity shop is obviously more environmental than buying new.

Natural decorations such as pine cones can be an alternative to plastic baubles and tinsel.

Rather than stocking up on a huge number of generic ornaments, consider keeping the tree relatively bare initially and adding ornaments collected as you travel.  Being spread far apart, our extended family often exchange small but carefully chosen Christmas ornaments by post in lieu of gifts.

– Christmas Budget: Cards and Wrap

Christmas cards are pretty wasteful.  I still send a handful, but only for my older relatives who do not communicate through the internet.  Whether by email or snail mail, relatives and friends get a personal message wishing them a wonderful Christmas.

Christmas wrapping paper is often not recyclable.  This year, I am adopting the Furoshiki tradition of wrapping gifts with fabric.  It’s a perfect idea for our family gifts, and can be reused every year.  How luxurious!

– Christmas Budget: Gifts

Most people have too much stuff.  The last thing anyone wants to do is to be the giver of an unwanted gift.

Some choose a gift-free Christmas.  If you still want to give a gift, instead of stuff, consider experience-based gifts.  Recent gifts I have enjoyed giving are tickets to an event, a virtual book club subscription , UK gardening Calender including seeds to be planted each month, charity donations and craft beer delivery.

Teaming up with family members often means you can buy a more expensive, but better quality gift.

Starting a family Secret Santa, so everyone buys one decent gift instead of lots of smaller ones can save everyone a lot of money.

Consider whether it’s time to make a “gifts for kids only” agreement with your family.  Or agree on something tokenistic.

Taking the time to choose a used book and writing a personalized message in the cover to me is so much more meaningful than a generic, thoughtless, and far more expensive gift.

– Buying for Kids

Consider buying gently used children’s toys.  Kids get brought SO MANY TOYS.  Most of them are plastic and end up in the landfill.

The four gift rule may be something parents wish to embrace.  It helps prevent us from getting carried away by ruling that kids should receive one gift they want, one they need, one to read, and one they will wear.

Not raising entitled, spoiled kids, take a conscious effort for those on above-average incomes.

With gifts from Santa especially, consider some of your child’s friends families may be going through tough times.  Presents from Santa should be modest and affordable.

If you are an Aunt or an Uncle, wanting to spoil your niece or nephew, consider taking them to a show or sports game (just the two of you!).

If separated by distance, consider a kids magazine or activity subscription, or try and find a gift that will last them beyond their current developmental stage.   These are often “Classic” basic toys such as role play*, classic games such as jenga*, and the all-time favourite, Lego*

To get a reasonable deal, starting early is key.  Research prices early and make a note so you can ensure any “Special deals” are true price reductions.

Sales including Black Friday (27th November), Cyber Monday (3rd December)  may or may not present better value.

Plan ahead and budget for Christmas so the silly season doesn’t delay your progress towards bigger goals

Aussie Doc Freedom is not a financial adviser and does need offer any advise.  Information on this website is purely a description of my experiences and learning.  Please check with your independent financial adviser or accountant before making any changes.

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