Take the “Ka-ching” out of Christmas

Oh holy baubles. Christmas. That endless frenzy of fattening food and fake festive cheer, all wrapped up in the biggest consumer scam this side of engagement rings.

It’s like a perfect storm of bank balance busting calamity. First, they pay you early. Way too early. Then you spend it all.  And some. And then there is the long, dry, wasteland of salticracks and January.

And a year that kicks off with debt. And 5 extra kgs. Nice.

Every single year I try and do a frugal Christmas. And invariably I fail. Miserably. Why? Because I have a family mass produced by unskilled labour. I have 22 immediate family. Twenty two! Even if I only spend R50 on each of them, that’s R1100 before you even get out the gate. Then you have to factor in the opportunity cost of the countless woman-hours it takes for me to find 22 cool or even vaguely interesting gifts for a measly 50 SA ronds a pop. And the wrapping paper. And the sodding, bloody gift tags.

So, I’m sorry close friends and extended family. I want to buy you gifts. I really do. But unless I win the lotto, a Christmas cuddle is all you’re getting.

No wonder I’m slowly turning into the Grinchiest of Christmas Grinches.

That said, I have, through years of bitter, credit card mashing experience, discovered 7 ways to make it a little more bearable.

  • Embrace the present drawer. My wonderful godmother started this tradition. She has a drawer filled with presents.  Whenever she sees a cool gift or a special, whatever the time of year, she’ll nab it and pop it in the present drawer. Come Christmas, all you do is raid the drawer and half the battle is won. And the cost is spread out over the whole year.
  • Make stuff. Yeah, yeah, I know. Who’s got time?  But one year, when I was seriously broke, I went out to those strawberry farms and bought my body weight in cheap strawberries.  And then I made pots and pots of jam. Little, cute pots of jam.  Which I wrapped in gingham paper with string. I’m telling you, strawberry jam is dead easy to make. And folk were impressed! And the unit price was suitably happy making. It went so well I did it again the next year. The third year I had bucks again so bought presents. Everyone wanted the jam. P.S. One up this and get your kids to make stuff.  Everyone wants a play dough ashtray. And if they don’t, that’s one less person on the list next year, right?! P.P.S. Pinterest is your friend.
  • Shop online. During insufferable meetings, preferably. Don’t tell your boss I said so. All the good retailers have apps or mobile friendly sites. And you save hours and hours of grey-hair inducing mall time. You also tend to make less “just get me out of here” last minute, impulse purchases. Watch out here though, because online is not always cheaper. It’s just easier, and especially easier to trawl for a good deal. And most of the sites will wrap stuff and deliver it for you too!
  • Double deal it. Don’t feel the need to buy two gifts for people who are a couple. Or people who live in the same house. Or sibling children. Your sodding, bloody gift card can spell it out that it’s a gift to share. There. I said it out loud. I’m a double dealer.
  • Make a donation. There are a bagillion people who need your Christmas contribution more than your turducken stuffed family. Choose an amount you would have spent in total, and donate it to a good cause. If you really want to get in the spirit of Christmas, you could “give” each person on your list an hour of your time, donated to a charity of your choice. Feel good and do good.
  • Secret Santa. I see more and more family or friend groups doing this. Cunning! Instead of buying eleventy separate gifts, everyone draws a name out of a hat and buys something for that person. It means you can spend more on the item, but considerably less than if you’d bought for the whole group.
  • Make it about the kids. Agree as a family that only the kids (under 18) get pressies. Get over the needless consumerism and give time-based gifts. 1 x trip to the park, 1 x hour playing monopoly. The kids might roll their eyes a little, but they will love it. Will.Love.it. Ungrateful little ankle biters.

The bottom line is that Christmas has gotten quite past itself. It’s a glorious, cheerful, happy, holiday time of year. But it’s not worth getting into hock for. Pace yourself, Rudolph.

Originally written for 22seven

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