Our Managing Director Rohith Murthy shares his tips for a frugal and heartwarming Christmas.
Christmas is here in less than a week! Every Christmas is special because it's a time unanimously filled with joy. But there are three reasons why this Christmas is extra special for me.
First, this is my first Christmas with my four-month baby daughter Radha. Second, this is my first Christmas back home in Singapore after 5 years in the cold, white mountains of Transylvania. Third, this is the first Christmas where I will make a conscious attempt to avoid a New Year financial hangover.
A survey done by UOB discovered that Singaporeans are spending more on Christmas shopping this year. Around S$769 is set aside for gifts, and an average of S$488 is spent on themselves.
While some might argue this is all good in the festive spirit and the muted economy, I beg to differ. Christmas is a festival of joy. And the joy doesn't come from spending to have "the perfect Christmas", but joy in knowing you are spending on things that matter.
So with 5 days to go, here are my 5 tips for a 'Ho Ho Ho' Christmas and avoiding a 'No No No' Christmas.
1. Secret Santa to the Rescue
Celebrating Christmas with your friends and family? Instead of getting a gift for everyone, play Secret Santa. It's very simple: you will be randomly assigned a person to whom you anonymously give a gift. Set a budget to give each other gifts. A budget as a low as S$10 is enough! You won't believe how creative and personal you will get when you know you are working on a budget.
2. Christmas is Time for Gift-Giving, Not Gift Shopping
Look around you and you will be convinced Christmas is a retail festival. With all this going on, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that Christmas is not about shopping, but about giving to your loved ones.
You don't have to go broke to show that you care. The most underrated gift is the gift of time, especially when your busy schedule means you miss a few moments with your loved ones. Spend the entire Christmas day being making happy memories with your family, and they'll remember this fondly for the rest of their lives.
3. Host Your Own Christmas Parties
My team and I had trouble deciding where to celebrate Christmas together. Our first choice was a buffet lunch or dinner at some nice restaurant, but guess what? Most restaurants are fully booked during this period, and their fixed Christmas menus are pricier than normal at around S$40-S$50 per head.
So after trying to get a reservation to no avail, we decided to order in. After all, Christmas lunch is about turkey, ham, and a bottle of red. We shopped around for the best deals on Christmas meats and had our own Christmas lunch for only S$100 - saving $250 in the process!
4. Use a Cashback Credit Card to Make Purchases
We don't encourage people to go into debt during Christmas. But if you must really use a credit card, use a cashback credit card and budget your money so you can pay it in full come January. With a card like the Citi Cash Back Card, you can get as much as 8% rebate on purchases.
5. Don't Be a Retail Snob
Christmas is the perfect time for you to drop your brand-conscious mind and shop for value instead. Nobody judges your Christmas tree and its decorations by brand. My baby daughter Radha doesn't really care which brand of a toy or dress I get her. The same should apply to all of us.
Lastly, for your next Christmas, start planning and saving in January. Most of us end up doing our Christmas shopping in December or as late as a week before Christmas day. This is the worst possible time to get the best bargains. Most retailers are smart enough to know this and will keep their prices intact.
So start planning in January. Keep a close eye on sales and discounts throughout the year. Set a budget and as soon as there is a sale for that particular store or merchant, hit the stores and pick it up for the lowest price. Then track this against your budget. You will be astonished at how much money you will save.
Merry Christmas everyone!
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By Rohith Murthy
Rohith leads Singapore’s SingSaver.com.sg, a financial comparison site aimed at helping consumers in Singapore save money and time by finding the right financial products.
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