I was chatting in a money management group the other day about spending habits and someone mentioned that they had recently finished paying off their debts and found that they kept the positive changes they had made during their time of financial hardship and it made me think about Christmas and how much my habits have changed since I started my debt repayment plan in 2015.
Before 2015 I would spend, spend, spend. I always left my Christmas shopping until the last minute and probably every year would either end up with another loan or put the shopping on my credit cards. Shopping was always based on a form of social pressure; to get the biggest, most expensive presents no matter whether they were fit for purpose. Nearly always people just ended up with whatever gift sets were in the shopping mall I happened to be in. Not very thoughtful gifts and no wonder I ended up in debt (one of the reasons).
I think now I am a much more thoughtful gift buyer even if I don’t gift very often. Being in debt and on a budget makes you recognise just who you should be spending your limited finances on. Firstly I cut my Christmas list down to those who were most important to me and of those remaining I made an agreement with siblings that I would only buy for their children (I have 11 nephews and nieces so still a lot!). Over the last few years that has been reduced again with siblings to a family gift so the 11 has gone to 4.
Another thing I have learnt is to shop over 12 months. I don’t set out to buy something each month and put it away but I do take advantage of year round sales or small, small business owner shops or craft fairs. I found that doing this has made me a more conscious shopper not just with the amount of money being spent but actually matching a gift to a person. As an example pre-2015 as mentioned I would blanket buy gift sets at over-inflated prices that whilst nice, you could change the name on the gift card and no one would be any wiser. Post-2015 people will get gift or a gift bag of small items that I’ve chosen when I’ve seen something that fits them perfectly. There is one present I have this year for my best friend. It’s small, cost me next to nothing but fits her perfectly and is something I know she enjoys very much. And probably 1/20th of what I had paid out in the past yet I believe she will get more lasting enjoyment (I’m being careful about what I say as she reads the blog J )
It’s not all positive. I did find when I started this some people took exception to not receiving a present any more no matter how much I explained my circumstances and while I believe that you don’t buy to receive it did amuse me the amount of people who would say ‘well if you’re not buying me one, I’m not buying you anything either’ but said in an incredibly grumpy way that suggests all they cared for was the gift and not anything else. But also funnily enough, they also turned out to be people that didn’t stick around as friends when they learnt that being good and sticking to a budget meant cutting back on lots of things. You certainly learn who are real friends and who are social friends when you have difficulties.
However this is all their problem and not mine. The majority of people accepted my decisions and are grateful for even a small gift. My dad always talks about it is the simple act of gifting and not the size of the gift and he’s right but when the world is bombarded with advertisements and social pressure at this time of year it’s hard not to fall for it.
I have one more restricted Christmas buying year (2019) and then from 2020 I have no budgeting anymore or rather not as strict as it is now. I am hoping that what the guy in the group said about keeping the good habits learnt is true and that while I may have a few more pounds to spend I won’t be silly with it and will stay a more thoughtful gift buyer.