Top Money Saving Tip — Cancel Christmas

My childhood memories of Christmas are wonderful. We were on holidays with no homework to complete for next term. We could do what we wanted with our days. We roamed the neighbourhood with kids from the street, riding our bikes and swimming in the pool next door. I could read all day if I liked.

Christmas was a time of anticipationdecorating the Christmas tree, adding wrapped presents underneath, putting up tinsel and spray-on snow*, waking early on Christmas morning to race out and see what Santa had left for us, then playing with new toys all day. Of course there was some sort of Christmas meal, but they don’t feature in my memory.

*Do you remember that stuff way back then? It was impossible to get off. The ghost of Christmas snow haunted the windows for months.

Worn, old Christmas angel window decal.
I swear this has fused to the glass. I can’t get it off. It’s probably a decade old now.

The Magic Reality Of Christmas

I’m trying to think when I lost that magic of Christmas. Not while I was still living at home. It was after I’d moved out, and suddenly had the responsibility of creating the magic, instead of just participating. These days, I would say Christmas is my least favourite holiday, for the following reasons:

  • Both of our workplaces shut for 2 weeks over Christmas. This means we are forced to use our precious, limited annual leave.
  • It’s hot. At home, we’ve got the aircon on (and are likely fighting about the appropriate temperature.)
  • The reason we are at home is that EVERYONE ELSE IS NOT! The seething tide of humanity is frantically present whenever we leave the house.
  • The holiday season adds a premium price to everything. Want to travel? Add 40%. Want to eat seafood? Those in the know predict prawns will reach $50/kg this year.
  • People will come to visit. While that’s a good thing, it means we need to spend the first week deep cleaning the house. And before you say “Mrs. ETT, true friends/family don’t care about the state of your house,” I agree. Unfortunately, being lax housekeepers throughout the year, this is the only motivation we have to give it a good going over. Self-inflicted.
  • Christmas parties/get-togethers. I have eight this year. EIGHT! For an introvert who isn’t keen on social gatherings at the best of times, all this does is pile on guilt because I have to decline some of them. Not to mention the cost involved. The majority are set around going out to eat. At least in regard to Kris Kringle at work, I set the expectation last year by declining to participate. This year the cost has risen to $30!
  • I have to think of a present for each member of the entire family who all have the means to buy what they want, when they want. Except for the kids. Happy to do it for the kids.
  • There is an expectation that the family will all get together for a meal. Even if you don’t like each other, or get on. Then if there’s more than one family involved, how do you fit them in? Run around from house to house, shoving down a meal so you can get to the next one? Drag kids away from toys? Fight about who gets the ‘privilege’ of Christmas Day and who gets Boxing Day? Guilt, guilt and more guilt.

I know, this is all very bah-humbug, and a little change in attitude would make all the difference. But one of the tenets of Financial Independence is to tread your own path. Don’t do what everyone else is doing, just because you’ve always done it that way. Stop, look at your actions, and make mindful decisions. So let’s pause to think for a moment…

Why Do You Celebrate Christmas?

At its heart, Christmas is a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. Being a public holiday, it is also a cultural celebration for many non-Christians. Traditions have emerged over thousands of years, including sending Christmas cards, singing Christmas carols, and putting up a Christmas tree.

Perhaps I need to go back and read Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. According to Wikipedia, “Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, linking ‘worship and feasting, within a context of social reconciliation.’”

I like the sound of that.

We are both lucky enough to live close to our families, so we see them regularly. Aside from the children experiencing Christmas and all that entails, the day doesn’t feel any different to getting together for a weekend BBQ to celebrate someone’s birthday. Yet, it has all the holiday expenses associated with it. Maybe it is the loss of tradition that has blended this day with others. Maybe it’s because I haven’t made the effort to differentiate it that I feel the way I do.

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer Line Drawing.

Our Christmas

Until this year, Mr. ETT’s family always got together on Christmas Day for the full British Christmas dinner, consisting of baked ham, huge turkey with home-made stuffing, dumplings, mashed potato, peas and gravy. This is a lot of work for those family members with the skills to create the meal, and we have found that after 4 or more hours of cooking, it’s eaten in 15 minutes. This Christmas we have decided to attend an organised meal at a local pub. No cooking, no cleaning, then back to someone’s house to laze the rest of the afternoon away.

Every year we contribute $5 a week to the family lottery syndicate, but nearly half of that and any winnings are kept towards the cost of Christmas dinner. It’s almost like a family Christmas club, with the added 1 in 45,000,000 chance of winning it big. Usually we have the cost of the meal covered, along with a small refund of cash. This year we may have to contribute to eat out; we’ll wait and see. My one money-saving tip of this post (aside from cancelling Christmas) is that if you can save $5/week all year, you will have $250 to spend on food and drink. Sweet!

My family gets together on Boxing Day, usually for an Aussie Christmas brunch or lunch, including cold ham, salads and seafood. We spend a couple of hours together, then head off to do our own things.

Turkey Line Drawing

An Alternative?

In recent years, I’ve found myself drawn towards the modern-day celebration of Thanksgiving in America. I know it has a historical basis also, and that there’s potential for commercialism. However, in Australia, it isn’t a thing. That means we could pick a date any time during the year to come together, share a meal, reflect on those things we have to be grateful for, and take time to appreciate each other. No gifts needed. No tacky/costly decorations. Just time out of our lives to mindfully spend with each other.

To quote Mrs. Frugalwoods,

Thanksgiving doesn’t encourage excessive spending, it traditionally has no gifts, there’s little commercialism associated with it…, and it enjoys a cult of personality around leftovers. What it does promote is essentially the time honored frugal agenda: cooking a meal at home and spending time with family and friends.

Wreath Line Drawing

We Won’t Cancel Christmas…

I’m not going to fight the family on this. It’s difficult enough to stop them buying me presents. Sometimes obligations are good for you. As I said above, all it takes is a shift in thinking to make all the difference. Do I like spending time with these people? Yeah, I do. So what am I railing against? Just the expectation and the commercialism. Of course there is choice and free will involved.

A colleague at work said the best thing they ever did was decide to go camping with their kids each Christmas. It removed all obligation to their extended family over that period. They defined Christmas for themselves on their own terms and in a frugal manner! They still see extended family when they return.

I too have the option to do something similar, but the truth is, I don’t want to face the consequences of exercising that choice. It’s extremely important to our extended family that we all be together on Christmas Day. It’s more important to them to be together, than it is for me not to participate.

Do I value decorations and wrapping paper and cards and tinny carols on repeat? No. But I do value the joy that my family derives. That is why I celebrate Christmas. I may have a poor attitude that needs adjustment, complain about the cost and heat, and be too outspoken on aspects of commercialism. But in my heart, I’m there.

Presents Line Drawing.

Where’s The Money Saving Tips?

Obviously, there are no money-saving tips in this post. I simply encourage you to take a few minutes to ensure that you know what’s truly important to you in the Christmas season, before spending money because it’s what you’ve always done. So for those of us who will continue to participate in tradition, or those of you who love celebrating Christmas, you can find some excellent money-saving tips from my fellow bloggers:

All About Balance: A Balanced Sydney Christmas
Adventures with Poopsie: An Aussie Christmas
Mrs. Frugal Ears: An entire series on creating a Cashed Up Christmas!
Money Meet Mind: A Very Polish Christmas Down Under
Get Money Wise: Avoid a Christmas Debt Hangover

Would you cancel Christmas if you could?

7 thoughts on “Top Money Saving Tip — Cancel Christmas

  1. Oh, this sooooo resonated with me. I kind of wish I could cancel Christmas sometimes as well. It was easier when I lived in Taiwan as, while the lights of Christmas etc is celebrated, it hasn’t become a cult in the same way that it has in Australia. I do struggle so much to avoid the excessive consumerism of it all!

  2. Eliza @ money meet mind says:

    Totally agree! Would love to cancel it, feels like any other weekly meal with my family and I’ve tried to stop both families buying presents. It failed and I dutifully made this year’s batch of soap last night and avoided getting a chemical burn this year 😉 The only thing that is making me rethink my attitude is the kids. It was such a magical event growing up and I don’t want to take that away from them. I just struggle with balancing the materialistic side with the whole true meaning of Christmas bit.

  3. Aww I’m sorry you’ve lost the magic of Christmas. I enjoyed it so much as a kid I guess I feel like it is the right thing to do to pass that on to the next generation and make it special for them as well. It helps that I still love it too 😉
    I do agree with you though that a lot of the stress is taken away when you are doing what you really want to do and not feeling like you needs to meet everyone else’s expectations. Even though I have 3 days of festivities, I have such a big family that someone always misses out on the actual Christmas day. We see each other regularly anyway so it isn’t a huge deal and nobody puts the pressure on which is great.

  4. For a few years there I lost the magic too. It was the years between when I moved out and starting “adulting” I think. Plus around that age I lost my dad so family gatherings were never the same.

    Now that I have kids though we most definitely won’t be cancelling Christmas. I love seeing their little faces light up.

  5. J @ Hey, It's Just Money! says:

    We’re the same, we think Christmas is only another day. I still like it, but it’s difficult to get into it when it’s super hot. Haha! And yes, the forced days off. Ugh.

    We don’t have Christmas family drama because our families are overseas. I have family here but only my brothers and a few relatives (much drama though), my boyfriend doesn’t. We usually only see my brothers and skip the rest of my family during Christmas – I like the food but I don’t like the stress that comes with it. This year, we’re leaning towards throwing a small dinner for our closest friends and having lunch with my brothers on Christmas day itself.

  6. I wouldn’t cancel it, but while we do celebrate Christmas, it certainly isn’t the way the average Australian seems to celebrate it. From young, we were taught that Christmas was a time for family, not presents. As we grew up, presents became scarce and it could sometimes be as simple as an ice cream (because Santa lives in North Pole apparently). We learnt that the true joy was not in presents but actually in spending family time together. We put on little christmas plays (my sister and I ) for our parents, spend time reading together and would then head out for Christmas brunch. (The big cooking with the whole day spent in kitchen is reserve for Chinese New Year)

    We aren’t close to our relatives, so that probably helped with it. There were no expectations to give presents to anybody and we receive nothing in return. And that’s okay. We love Christmas, with the decorations and the family quiet time. There was a magic about it. These days, we don’t give presents to anybody we don’t feel like giving presents to, or if we have nothing good to give. We hardly even give presents to each other! We will see extended family during Chinese New Year so you don’t normally get the gatherings at Christmas time anyways.

    We don’t attend christmas party – we don’t even have any to attend, truthfully. There was one from work and that was it. I hear my colleagues talk about having so many to go to, but I never seem to have any to go to! Haha. So I guess for us, there’s no real holiday expense other than very limited number of presents and a Christmas Brunch. Consumerism isn’t pretty!

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