10 February

Going (Christmas) clubbing

Now that you have recalculated how much Christmas is going to cost you, divide the amount by 45 (which is the number of weeks till Christmas)[1] and that’s the amount you need to save each week to hit your target.

Here are some of the standard Christmas saving options:

  • Some banks and credit unions offer Christmas Club accounts which discourage you withdrawing your money before November and these can be good if you need discipline, but their interest rates are seldom exciting.
  • If you can rein yourself in without help, simply use your current savings account (and reap your current interest) and keep track of how many of the dollars in the account are Christmas dollars.[2]
  • You can even use a piggy bank (and forego interest entirely) if you’re sure you will insert your weekly allocation reliably. And if you also add loose change as you go, you could end up with a little more than you budgeted.[3]

I am suspicious of organisations that take a weekly payment from you and then send you a hamper at Christmas because I can’t see that you’d get better value than if you saved up yourself and then did your own shopping. For example, I’ve just checked out a “chips and drinks” option at $3.25 over 36 weeks ($117 in total) that provides nearly nineteen litres of soft drink and two and a half kilograms of chips and I can buy exactly those same things at my local supermarket myself today for $91.56.[4] Also:

  • If you can make do with less than the hamper provides, you can spend less. (If I bought 15 litres of soft drink and a “mere” 2kg of chips in my supermarket today, my cost would be 25% lower than theirs.)[5]
  • If you buy cheaper products, you can spend less. (The house brands of those same items would cost me $55.79[6] today and you probably don’t need premium orange squash in your fruit punch.)
  • If you keep an eye out for specials, you can save more. (Chips typically have a use-by date of 2 to 3 months so you can buy them from November on and soft drink stays good forever.)[7]

So do be wary of this kind of deal and be sure it will work in your favour before you sign up.

10 feb 2016.jpg
Safe as pigs.

Jeremy and I dropped in to Hannah’s flat to pick her up for her birthday dinner and there was a huge teddy bear sitting on her couch.

“Who’s that from?” asked Jeremy.

“An ex-boyfriend,” said Hannah.

I could see that Jeremy was working his way through the list of Hannah’s past romances, trying to gauge who knew her so poorly that he’d give her a big soft toy so I short-circuited things for him.

“Is that ex as of tonight?” I asked.

“Yes: you can tell the restaurant we’re back down to four,” said Hannah.

“And you dumped him because of the teddy bear?” Jeremy clarified.

Hannah didn’t bother to answer.

“He should take it back to the shop he got it from,” said Jeremy.

“I suggested that,” said Hannah, “But he said that he’d had a long conversation with the shop girl about how much his girlfriend would love the bear so he’s too embarrassed to.”

“We’ve got a spare chair at the restaurant,” said Jeremy. “You could bring it with you.”

But Hannah didn’t think that was funny.

[1] Haven’t the first six flown and aren’t you glad you’ve already started your planning!

[2] When my niece Emma was planning her wedding, her father said that, in the same way that you multiply normal years by seven to get dog years, you should multiply normal prices by four to get wedding prices. (So, if a pair of black leather sandals cost fifty dollars, then a pair of white leather sandals will cost two hundred dollars.) Using the same principle, I think that Christmas dollars are equivalent to two normal dollars in December, and about fifty cents in January.

[3] My cousin Peter was good at saving his pocket money up for big ticket toys and, the year he was nine, he calculated exactly how long it would take till he could afford the construction kit he yearned for and was annoyed when he counted his hoard on the big shopping day and found he had overshot. (His mother had deposited the coins she found in the house and, had Peter known that, he could have bought his Lego three weeks earlier.)

[4] I took my laptop, entered shelf prices and crunched the numbers with a spreadsheet. Passing shoppers gave me some very odd looks but I am willing to suffer in the name of accuracy for you, my dear reader.

[5] And my consumption of sugar, salt and fat would be lower too.

[6] Which is less than half of what they’re charging.

[7] Or, more accurately, doesn’t get any worse over time.

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