Festive Greetings: I am taking a day off and even though we all know I Loath Guest Posts I have allowed our buddy Glenn from Life Insurance Canada to show just how Grinchy he can be, read on, and be dazzled by his
cheapness, penny pinching, frugality.
If you’re like us, you’re probably tired of the commercialism of Christmas. Yes, it’s fine and fun for the kids and we all love getting together with our families. But Christmas shopping and gift giving between spouses has gotten beyond tedious.
Both my spouse and I have everything we need, and more than enough of what we want. Christmas shopping turns challenging into just walking around trying to find something that we neither need and barely want and at best find interesting. And all that does is turn into a drain on the pocketbook for more ‘stuff’.
So this year we’ve taken the $150 Christmas challenge. And I’m challenging you to do the same with your spouse, and put the rest of your money back into your wallet.
Here’s the rules of engagement:
- maximum $150 including taxes.
- All gifts must fit into a Christmas stocking
- no wandering the malls looking for filler, you need to know what you want ahead of time.
Can you do it? The unique part of this challenge is that by reducing budget drastically it forces us to find really creative and interesting gifts. You can’t buy a $150 Fossil watch just because it’s cool - that’s out of the budget.
Let me get you started with some great gift ideas that’ll fit the bill:
- Dust off the skis, or snowshoes this year with a promise to take your spouse for an afternoon outside in the winter air. Ski socks and maybe some gloves from MEC. It’s not socks - it’s the promise of an outdoor adventure. If you don’t have the snowshoes, some searching will find pairs in the area of $80. Or hit up Kijiji.
- Mixed tape, Gangnam style. A $50 ipod nano. Throw in a $20 Itunes gift certificate, or better yet pre-program it with some tunes yourself. And if their car doesn’t take mp3′s as an input, a $10 device is readily available that’ll let you play the iPod over your car stereo.
- Foot rub cream from your local pharmacy. If that’s not the best gift ever, then you haven’t been married long enough.
- Personalized calendar. A guaranteed hit. Take a dozen pics from your adventures in the past year into your local staples and have them turn it into a calendar. Pics from valentines day become the pic for February, summer holiday pics are for July/August, and so on. A calendar for the year, and a keepsake thereafter. Or if you want over the top, a calendar of baby pics of the kids.
- $30 gift certificate for their favourite lunch spot. Comes with an assumed ‘lunch date’ promise.
It turns out, this challenge may result in both less money spent/wasted AND better gifts. Can you do it? What are your ideas for limited budget gifts for your spouse, ones that scream “I’m thinking about you” instead of “This is what I found at the mall when I went last Saturday”?
Glenn Cooke is president of Life Insurance Canada.com Inc. Not quite a Grinch, he still hates browsing the malls at Christmas.
So the joy of the Christmas season is always augmented by the need to clean up (or wrap up) your finances by the end of year, and maybe start preparing for the upcoming RRSP and Tax Season (it’s just synonymous Holidays and End of Year (said he dripping with acidic sarcasm)).
Not only can I not find the latest “Tickle me Furby” toy, I can’t find the damn medical receipts from my many physiotherapies for my knee and also all of my god damn bus passes to claim my mass transit credit. The aggravation of the Christmas season grows exponentially when you add in your end of year stuff too. Many a day I end up swearing like a drunken member of the Merchant Marine on his first furlough in a year in Shanghai thanks to Christmas Shopping and End of Year financial close out, but there is more to add.
January is coming? What does January mean for anyone with kids in University? If the school your kids attend has a semestered set up, you owe another $3500 in Tuition Fees too! Let that lump of coal under your tree simmer there for a while, just to make you feel more festive. I know at Christmas I always have a spare $3500 hanging around in my sock drawer (hell these days, I am lucky if I have socks in my sock drawer) (yes I have RESPs to cover some of this, but never interrupt a lunatic mid-rant).
Nothing like a Bloggers Rant to allow me to use the old A-Bomb Picture
How to alleviate this? You really need me to explain this? OK, back to the tried and true advice you have had from me many times, but one more time from the top:
- Don’t make financial planning and tax planning an end of year thing, do it every month or at worst every quarter, get it all straight that way December 31st is not a black day on your calendar
- Stay organized too, and no a shoebox full of receipts is not organised, that is a paper shite vortex looking for somewhere to hit. File the stuff in a way that it is easy for you to find and figure out where everything is.
- Christmas planning? If you didn’t start that in September you are going to feel like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs come December. Make a plan and stick to it.
As for me? Yeh, I don’t follow my own advice, do I? Hopefully you do!
Much like our friends in the U.S. Government, many of us are going to face the Christmas Financial Cliff in January (so a little later than our friends down south).
The Christmas Financial Cliff is when all those Credit Card bills that you forgot about during the Christmas carnage of shopping, suddenly appear on your doorstep, and you have to pay up.
My Favorite Cliffs in Dover
How bad could this be? My guess is that if you don’t have a plan in place, and are just going to madly go into stores, or burn the midnight oil ordering stuff from Amazon (pre wrapped, mind you), you will over spend and the consequences will be the inevitable question for January: Groceries or Credit Card Debt?
The hard part about the Christmas Financial Cliff is that you can’t blame Obama or the Congress about getting you into the state that you are in (pardon the pun), the fault lays solely on you (which makes things easier doesn’t it?). The other problem you have is that you can’t increase taxes to increase your income, but you could claim you will lower your spending so you can afford to pay things off ( yeh right, whatever juicy rationalization helps you sleep ).
You can thank Mrs. C8j for this topic!
Hey if Oprah can shill herself for products, I can certainly put the Big Cajun Man Seal of Approval on things, and let’s face it, most folks come to a Financial Blog to find out what would be best to buy their loved ones for Christmas. Remember if you buy using any of these ads, BCM gets a few more nickels in his pocket too (hey even bloggers gotta get paid).
Wealthy Barber Returns
||Now some of you may only think of Mr. Chilton as the new guy on Dragon’s Den, but I can assure you he is a very good author and both of his books are must read if you want to have any idea of how to manage your financial life.
If your kids are moving out to live on their own and are starting their life away from home, give them both of these books and tell them to at least read one of them, you will be doing them a huge favour (and they might be less likely to end up moving back into your basement too).
Moneyball the Movie(s) and Book
|I have not seen the movie yet, but Mrs. C8j will be giving it to me this Christmas, but the book is completely different from the movie, from what I can tell. The Book was very enjoyable for a Baseball stat-head like me explaining how Billy Bean changed the measure of talent (in baseball) from being a “gut decision” to a more mathematical decision.
The movie sounds like it could be interesting as well (I am sure Mrs. C8j will enjoy the Brad Pitt portion of things).
The Snowball Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
||A very interesting book well worth reading, since it portrays Mr. Buffett as a human being who made some very good decisions, but who also lives a very odd life. It’s the kind of “warts and all” story that I like reading since it doesn’t put him up on a pedestal, but it also doesn’t throw him down into the ditch either. A balanced view of a Very Rich, Pretty Smart kind of average guy.
Under the Dome by Stephen King
|Another marathon book from the King of the Macabre, yet intricately spun web of a society’s spiral into an authoritarian hell. I enjoyed this book a great deal, but I am pretty sure if Mr. King put out a cook book, I might say that was great too.
Make sure you put aside a lot of time to read this one (evidently there is talk of a movie from this as well, interested to see if Frank Darabont gets on board for it or not).
Soap on a Rope
||Nothing says Christmas to a Father or Husband more than soap on a rope, and English Leather, soap on a rope is the antithesis of this product concept. I miss soap on a rope and hope that someone who cares for me will get me one, so it can sit around unused for 5 years, and then get thrown out (the way the last soap on a rope went).
Not sure where the tradition of soap on a rope actually came from, but I like it!
Bestest Ornament Ever
|This little ornament is very special to me, as it was given to my parents for me, when I was very young and was made by a friend. Yes, some gifts cost very little, but can mean much more than ludicrously expensive gifts (keep that one in mind, when you are buying your kids another lap top, or an iPad).
Give your kids something they might remember for more than 2 days after Christmas (remember money disappears on Boxing Day).
Christmas is a time for Family, Friends and Fun, going bankrupt buying ridiculously expensive gifts, is not part of the tradition.
Before I get a bevy of “right thinkers” complaining about how I am being insensitive talking about Christmas, tough! If you go into work on that day, you can complain, otherwise, lump it (sorry, I am sick and tired of this whole Holiday instead of Christmas right think that has consumed right thinking folks). I have no issue with Kwanzaa, Chanukah, or not celebrating it, just don’t get bent out of shape when I talk about Christmas.
No, that is not the topic for the day, but I figured I’d throw that out in case someone wants to complain to me about that, I’d take a pre-emptive strike on it.
The start of the Christmas Season is almost here (no it’s not Labour Day, but some seem to think that), American Thanksgiving means one thing, time to start bankrupting yourself to show “love” for your friends and family (after all if you give an expensive gift, you are showing how much you love and care for your family and friends)(yes that is sarcasm, for those who are new here).
Gifts you shouldn’t give your kids (ever) was a helpful post that I had last year, and I have also spoken on this topic about asking the question Is re-gifting gauche, but here are some more really helpful tips for those who read financial blogs to find out great Christmas Gifts for their loved ones, and have no idea what to get for Christmas:
- Fake your own death
Apologies to my Druid Friends
, given how much is spent on Christmas, this might not be that bad an idea. Disappear, and reappear in March claiming you have amnesia and pocket all of the money you would have spent on Christmas. A better idea, is take your Christmas money, and hide out somewhere warm and nice, but remember not to come back with a nice tan (that might be a dead giveaway). No this isn’t a new idea, I borrowed it from General Hospital (or Days of our Lives), I like to think of it as the Soap Opera Option.
- I am too busy for Christmas, just never go and meet up with anyone who you might exchange gifts with until July of next year. You’d think this wouldn’t work but Michael James and I did this and we had Christmas in August this year (it works nicely). Claim you have a lot of work, or are on a business trip, or whatever.
- Re-gifting, I still maintain this is the best thing to do for Christmas. You have to be careful that you have kept track of who gave you the gift originally, and once you start doing this, you can’t complain if you catch someone re-gifting to you (unless it is a gift you gave them), but it is the easiest money-saving Christmas gift idea.
- Religious flip-flopping, can work if you do a little research first. Claiming you are now a Buddhist or a Druid can work for you, but you really must sell it hard or folks will resent you for it. On the Druid side of things, you can get out of impromptu Christmas things if there is a tree, and you can complain that adorning the tree is an insult to your religious beliefs, and leave in a huff.
Hopefully these helpful hints will aid you in saving a few bucks this Christmas Season. If you must give gifts, remember that Christianity is not based on the following tenet:
Love is measured by the price of the gift given