Struggling with Christmas

Posted December 8th, 2005 by Penny Wise

I am really struggling with Christmas this year. For the first time ever, I have absolutely no idea what to get anyone. I was so secure in the knowledge that I couldn't touch my Christmas Club money until now, that I have given no thought to what I'm going to buy with it - and now I'm stuck! I've been doing a bit of halfhearted shopping online, which is great because I have plenty of time to think about whether I really want to buy something, whether it is really suitable for the person I am buying for and how much I am tallying up in my online shopping cart. I also have to use my credit card to shop online, which makes me give plenty of thought before putting anything on it. The problem is that I'm so stingy these days, it takes me far longer to shop because I think everything through so carefully and change my mind 20 times before finally purchasing!

I think that's part of my problem, you know. I've been keeping this blog for seven months now and have been making such a concerted effort NOT to spend any money, that now I am having trouble parting with it. I think I'm scared of undoing all the good I've done all these months, by going overboard on Christmas. Based on previous Christmases, these fears are not unfounded. Let me tell you about last Christmas - I'm really embarrassed about this and haven't told anyone else, but if there's still time to save someone else from being in the same predicament this Christmas, then it's worth me sharing!

This time last year, I was such a Sad Sally. For the two years we had been living with a mortgage, we had basically continued to live as we had done without a mortgage - and on half the income. As December approached, I tagged along Christmas shopping with Rochelle and boy did I learn a thing or two about bargain hunting! I was delighted with my purchases and felt that I had really bought wisely. Indeed I had, but it wasn't enough to make up for the months of overspending and impulse buying. Christmas morning came and I told myself that the kids wouldn't notice that Santa had been doing most of his shopping at the $2.00 shop this year instead of the pricey toys he usually sent their way. They did notice, but it wasn't a big deal - they were happy for Mum and Dad to get the credit for the larger stuff instead once we were all sat under the tree. Even Noel thought I had been a lot more sensible with my buying choices for a change.

But I had left it too late. Money worries had got a hold of me. I had been too scared to look at the bank balance for a while, but I had to know. I did my best to keep up appearances at the in-laws' festive family gathering, but by the afternoon I could bear it no more and had to nip home to check the balance online. My worst fears were confirmed - we were spending Christmas day overdrawn by several thousand dollars. I spent the rest of the day in bouts of tears as I wondered how we were ever going to get out of debt. Noel couldn't understand why I had chosen Christmas Day of all days to check the bank balance and the rest of the family must have thought I'd drunk far too much eggnog and made myself all emotional. It was truly horrible and hard to believe it was only 12 months ago.

This year it's going to be different. No credit card debts, no 'junk', because let's put things into perspective here, Christmas is only one day! My mindset has changed beyond belief since last year. For example, a few days ago I saw the Warehouse were advertising a great price for a video/DVD player. We don't have a DVD player, but we can watch most DVDs on Liam's Playstation, which means squeezing into the boys' playroom. 'That would be perfect for Noel and I for Christmas!' I thought - until I thought again. Is it worth paying $199 just so we can watch DVDs in the lounge? Is it really such a hardship to watch DVDs in the playroom? It's a great way to enjoy family time together. No way! A year ago I would have just taken advantage of the 'bargain' and gone and bought it anyway.

My friends and family are also getting a surprise when they ask me what I want for Christmas this year. A large plastic bucket with a lid on, some small dishes for freezing individual sized meals, new baking trays - well, why not? At least they are things that I would really like and be useful. As I look around the house I cringe at all the 'must have' things I bought two or three years ago. I honestly say to myself 'What on earth was I thinking?!' I mean, as if they make a difference to anything! I spent an absolute fortune on useless dust collectors and if I never bought another thing to furnish our home it wouldn't be missed. Shame it took me more than 30 years to realise, but you're never too old to change. If this little tale doesn't show what Simple Savings has done for me, I don't know what does!

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