Debt free Christmas

Posted November 23rd, 2005 by Penny Wise

This Christmas promises to be unlike any other. It will be the first Christmas of my adult life that I will not have got myself into debt or be struggling to pay for the gifts I have given. I was amazed to read an article in the NZ Herald two days ago which reported that Mastercard expected the average consumer to use their credit card more than ever this year, running up an average debt of $900 per person to cover their Christmas shopping. Well I won't be one of them, no way! I honestly haven't given Christmas shopping a thought yet. My Christmas cards have been taken care of all year, since I bought six packs of 10 at clearance for $1.00 at the local store on Boxing Day last year. I kept all the cards we received last year to recycle and make gift tags from. In previous years, I would have done all my Christmas shopping by October, have hundreds of dollars in lay-bys here, there and everywhere, miss any likely specials and then frantically be juggling my accounts and cards around to pay for them in December. Not this year though - and I tell you what, it feels great!

The reason I haven't started Christmas shopping yet is because I can't spend any Christmas money until December 1st. Throughout the year I have been putting money away with my local Credit Union into a Christmas Club account and I'm not allowed to access my money until then. Mostly it's only $10 per week, but any extra unexpected cash has also been snaffled away into this account. I haven't noticed the money going out at all and get this - I now have more than $1000 for Christmas! If I had not opened this type of account, I know there would be no way I could access this kind of money now, it just wouldn't be there. As it is, I will be hosting eleven adults and children at home this Christmas and will have more than enough to go around for all the food, drink and Christmas presents we need. Anything I don't spend out of this account will simply roll over for next year. I can already see some of my friends stressing out about Christmas and I actually feel quite embarrassed that I don't have to worry for once. Noel and I never buy each other Christmas presents; call us unromantic but there is nothing we feel we need and we would rather put that money to better use at other times of the year when we want to make improvements to our home and garden. I know of other friends of ours who became so frustrated that they were spending huge amounts of money at the Warehouse before Christmas only to find that on Boxing Day all the gifts they had bought for their children were on sale for half price, that for the last few years they have actually waited until Boxing Day, then given each child the same amount of money and let them buy twice as much for their money in the sales. Can't say I blame them, but to me, Christmas just wouldn't be the same without the element of surprise on the day.

Be assured I'm no saint though! When December 1st comes I'll be devoting an entire day to retail therapy - not that I'm expecting miracles. You know how it goes - if you go shopping and you have the money in your purse, more often than not you come home empty handed, but if you go shopping with no money, you end up seeing heaps of things you just have to have!

Yesterday also marked another first for me. The telephone rang and I answered it to a politely spoken foreign voice. 'Is Mrs Wise there?' Ha - another telemarketer! I grimaced. You're not going to get anything out of me! 'No, I'm afraid she's away - can I take a message?' I said innocently. 'She's away? Are you sure?' came the voice at the other end. 'Yes, I'm quite sure!' I answered indignantly. 'Oh, it's just I only spoke to Mrs Wise 20 minutes ago, it's Rina from Sky TV about her new movie channel'. Ah yes - I had forgotten she had told me she would ring back shortly and confirm. There was nothing for it but to come clean. 'Oh, it's you! Erm, I am here actually, it's just I thought you were a telemarketer, but I don't mind talking to you!' At this point I was interrupted by hysterical screeching laughter down the phone. 'Oh Mrs Wise, that's just brilliant!' she shrieked down the phone. �I tell you what, I'll give you an extra month's free subscription just for making my day!� She was still doubled up laughing when she finally hung up. Just goes to show that honesty really is the best policy!

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