I have an admission to make: I have a bit of a cash flow problem. I could complain about it. I could go further in debt – hey, it’s nearly Christmas, right, and there are all those things to buy? But I have decided to instead turn it around and aim for a Cashed Up Christmas, which is the theme for November.
It’s not like I don’t have money. I did my end of month net-worth spreadsheet last night and was pleasantly surprised. The issue is that I am refinancing my residential property so that I can buy my ex-husband’s share of our two remaining investment properties. I didn’t realise that it would take so long. I have given my bank the mortgage discharge form and it has frozen my redraw facility. Because I make lots of additional repayments, this effectively means I don’t have much cash. In the meantime, there have been a lot of big expenses. Like my rates (ouch), which I have paid a year in advance just before I found out about the freezing. And my car breaking down and needing a $717 new radiator (grateful the engine is okay, and so thankful for lovely friends of my man). And paying a deposit on a cruise next year (got an AWESOME early discount). And then paying for flights now with Scoot to Singapore, where the cruise starts, because they are super cheap if we buy them now.
It is easy to go, well when the refinance is approved I will have access to heaps of money. I will have a larger line of credit with it so I can spend more. So why not just put on the credit card for now? But really, this is dangerous thinking. I am thankful I have that card because it meant I could pay for the radiator (or else my car would still be down the coast). But I want to reign my card in so it doesn’t get out of hand. (I haven’t had a credit card for that long and I would prefer not to have one at all.) The best way to reduce debt is not to get into too much debt in the first place. The same principle goes for losing weight – best dieting tip is not to put it on to start with (hmmm, I will remember that with all the Christmas eating).
So this month my personal challenge is to reduce my spending and to create more cash. The idea is to find money between now and Christmas. I promise you that I have several tips that will help you save and generate hundreds of dollars. I already have some great ideas. Are you with me on this journey? Yeah!
And here’s the first big one. One that seems so obvious but that will really help you on your journey towards a Cashed Up Christmas.
There is a difference between wants and needs.
In the next eight weeks or so before Christmas there will be a lot of temptations. Cute little toys that sing jingle bells and jiggle like Elvis. Fabulous new frocks that you want to wear to parties. Pretty Christmas decorations that sparkle. Dinner settings to impress people you will entertain, and colour coded table decorations to go with it. Cheap crappy presents to go as stocking fillers (since did that become a thing?) that only get thrown away and hardly used. Oh, and a new stocking to go with it because they are only a few dollars and look so good.
Maybe a new colour palette for the Christmas tree this year? Perhaps a new tree to go with it. Extra Christmas lights so that you can outdo the neighbours? A new outdoors setting for Christmas lunch, and perhaps a new BBQ to go with it?
Christmas cake, and Christmas pudding, and stollen, and a yule log, mince pies, rum balls, shortbread, panettone, Christmas chocolates, chocolate advent calendars, bulk lolly packs for snacks, trifles, cheesecakes, ham, turkey, prawns, smoked salmon, lobster tails ….
The list goes on.
Christmas has its roots as a pagan festival, although has since been co-opted as a Christian event. Most Australians celebrate it as a family event. It *should* be a celebration of peace and love and joy.
But I am going to challenge you a bit. Do you really NEED half of the consumer stuff you are presented with this time of year? I don’t want to be a killjoy, but I will say that I am deeply upset by the fact that many people get pushed into debt to afford things that they don’t really need. It is easy to get caught up in the momentum of the consumer rush that is going on, that you go on and on and on and it doesn’t really crash down to reality until credit card statements arrive in late January and early February.
More stuff at Christmas is not a need. It won’t make you happier. It won’t make your family love, respect and admire you anymore.
Instead, focus on what you truly need and value as opposed to what you want.
If a big ham (which you can afford) is an important part of your Christmas ritual, then by all means go and buy it. Go out with family and choose it together, shopping wisely for the best price and quality. Make it an event. Decorate it with cloves or go the whole hog with pineapple and glace cherries. Then enjoy every little bit of it. Split ham pea soup – yummo!
If you want to have a tree, then spend time with family decorating it together. Some of the best decorations are those unaesthetic little handmade things that kids make at school. They would never sell well on the shelves of a swanky department store, but they melt my heart whenever I see them. I remember mum used to proudly hang a decoration I made in primary school from half a milk carton and some stickers. I do something similar with my kids. Priceless.
To spell out the obvious about where I am going with this, needs at Christmas time tend to be those things that help you better connect with family and friends rather than things you do to try and impress them. Today I was listening to an insightful TED Talk on vulnerability by Brene Brown. It is a must watch. I won’t even try to summarise. But true connectedness comes from authenticity, and when you are yourself you will have a much better relationship than others than when you spend a lot of money to try to be something or someone you are not.
So my challenge to you is to cut through the Christmas crap and to start really identifying what is a want versus a need. Say no to poorly made Christmas junk that is an environmental and social disaster, and say yes to building real relationships with the people that are important to you.