Welcome to Happy Holiday Savings Part Three!

Last week we touched on several ideas including gifts for those in need whether locally or internationally.

Speaking of helping those in need, it’s always fun to watch the classic “A Christmas Carol”, in black and white from the fifties with Alastair Sim, and see the transformation of the miserly Scrooge as ghosts take him through the past, present, and what’s yet to come. I’m getting teary eyed just thinking of the ending as we speak. Seriously.

While we can’t physically travel back in time or make changes to our past, from the present onwards, like Scrooge, we can alter our approach if our past actions, e.g. going into debt, haven’t been working out too well.

Hint number 11: We can take control of what we do now, like spending what we can truly afford, to find the balance of giving without being haunted in the future. A generous spirit doesn’t have to be equated with expensive gifts.

 

Whether I save the Christmas gift receipts in a special pile or not, what I always do is write down the amounts I spend as I go to ultimately assess the full total. This is aside from the regular budget notebook where I keep track of how much is left to live on after definite expenses each payday. For the holidays, I have a gift themed notebook that I use year after year for keeping track of who to buy for, what I got them, and how much was spent, so it’s a handy reference.

While my initial guesstimates of the total amounts I hope to spend are often off by a modest chunk of change, it’s good to have an approximate goal in mind at the start of the season, and a final total that fits within reason.

And a degree of flexibility will be helpful for the gifts you initially forget to budget for e.g. the $10 Tim Hortons card or box of Pot of Gold for the mailperson, or your awesome paper girl, aka me, if you live in my neighbourhood.

Hint number 12: Keep a running total of what you spend as it will often add up unexpectedly and it may help remind you to limit superfluous extras. Hmm…I think “superfluous extras” qualifies as being the opposite of an oxymoron. No, Earl, my Southern friend introduced in Parts One and Two, I promise, I did not just call you a moron.

 

Things that are useful and pretty at the same time are my favourite things to give. If you are of an artsy inclination like me, or even just have a simple picture to upload, there are some really fun sites where you can buy unique pieces. I’ve ordered a bunch of my own designs to give this year in the form of pillowcases, bags, and journals, and while they aren’t exactly low cost there’s definite satisfaction in being at the heart of the art.

You can keep it simple and order items like calendars or mugs with personalized pictures on them from your local drugstore, or step it up with sites like RedBubble or Fine Art America and so on, but you’ll want to keep an eye on the shipping charges for heavier items. If you order your own designs you don’t pay the mark up fee that would go to the artist and it’s easy to get another 20% off that base price to put the costs into reasonable territory. E.g. I ordered four of my cushion cover designs and including tax and shipping the total was $70 Canadian. To get an idea of types of items and prices you can check out fifty or so designs on my page at http://www.redbubble.com/people/rachelalbang and perhaps you’ll be inspired to join in the fun!

Hint number 13: In today’s digital world, there are many options to personalize gifts and find a wide array of items at a wide range of prices.

 

I’m not a drinker of alcohol at all but an ad for a store selling liquor made me think of this point. They were advertising that if you buy six bottles of wine you would get 10% off. But like any kind of sale price like that, if you don’t actually need that amount, you’re not better off buying more just to get a modest discount. And what are the base prices of the products – are they a good deal as singles or higher than they should be to more than buffer the “sale” price? If you are serious about buying several bottles of anything, are the deals in the grocery store better than what you’d pay at the liquor store?

This time of year seems to be about multiples of everything like if you buy five boxes of Terry’s Chocolate Orange you’ll get the sixth one free. But if the base prices of the products are higher than they should be e.g. $6 instead of the easy to find sale price elsewhere of $4 each, spending $30 on six including the “free” one is not the best deal.

Hint number 14: Whenever an offer of multiple products catches your eye, break it down to a per item price to see if it’s actually a good deal and assess if you need the amount that the deal is contingent upon.

 

My Dad grew up in war-torn Germany and remembers how special it was at Christmas to get something unusual like a single orange. They had rationing cards, and one Christmas Eve during the war his parents served a plate with two or three slices of cold cuts and a half a centimetre slice of liver sausage. He thought that sausage was so delicious and savoured it with mouth watering enthusiasm. That quite literally was his Christmas present and one he has never forgotten.

As war and poverty still rage the world over, and refugees struggle to find new homes in foreign countries, it’s always good to be reminded of how plentiful life is for so many of us. And as many of us have either struggled with health issues or the loss of loved ones and other hardships, it can be the best present of all to just be here and give and receive love, in many shapes and forms, as love is such a precious gift.

Hint number 15: Whether you give or receive modest, little, edible gifts, try not to rush through them but instead, savour every last bite, like the first time my Dad tasted liver sausage.

I’ll be polishing up Part Three of my book series this month (Amazon.com/author/rachelalbang), and taking a blogging break to fully dive into Christmas, but I’ll see you in the New Year. Whatever your celebrations, big or small, entail at this time of year, and whether you aim to save a little or a lot, I do wish you and yours the very best. Joy to the World!

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