finance

"I'm horrified by how much I'm spending on Christmas this year."

I often wonder if my spending habits are ‘normal’, particularly at Christmas time when I seem to spend more in two weeks than I do all year. So I Googled it, and really wish I hadn’t.

The average Australian plans to spend $1,079 at Christmas time according to ASIC. My tentative budget is three times that. I do have a large family consisting of nine young children spread out among myself and my three siblings.

We long ago gave up buying gifts for each other, choosing to focus our spending on the kids only.

Then there’s extended family to shop for, and a tree and an obscene amount of food.

Each and every year I sit down and make carefully considered Christmas budget factoring in each and every person and each and every meal. Each and every year I end up spending more than I’d planned.

How to save money at Christmas time. (Post continues after video.)

Video via Mamamia

Now I know I spend way more than the average Australian which doesn’t surprise me in the least. Feeling horrified after finishing my Christmas shopping has become normal to me. I try and push that feeling aside and instead focus on the faces of my loved ones as they open their Christmas gifts.

After Christmas when I begin what I lovingly refer to as my ‘post-Christmas budget repair effort’ and I account for each and every dollar that left my bank account I stop and wonder how on earth I’d be able to afford Christmas if I earned less than what I was earning now.

Or lost my job.

Or if one of my siblings has yet another child whom I love more than life itself and can’t help but spoil rotten.

Every year as Christmas approaches I prepare with the best of intentions, carefully constructing a considered budget with the aim of spending a reasonable amount of money.

Those years when I do reluctantly stick to it I end up having a last-minute freak out. Are the gifts I’ve bought good enough? Will all the kids in the family love their presents enough? Do I have enough food

'I live in fear of disappointing the children in my family at Christmas.' Image: iStock
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Then I do a guilty last-minute shop during which I top up or replace gifts and buy lots of extra food. I never need it all, but I feel better having it. Until I look at my bank balance and completely freak out at the damage I have done. January and February are spent attempting to repair what I have done before the first school fee payment is due.

I fear that Christmas has become too much about 'stuff' for me and the kids in my family. I spend too much fearing I'll disappoint them with a crappy gift. They may be disappointed, but they won't love me any less. So why do I try so much to impress them?

What am I trying to prove?

It's true that parents often try and improve on their own childhoods and my childhood was meagre, filled with the knowledge that I had less than most of my friends, but looking back it wasn't a sad childhood and I never doubted my parents loved me. In fact watching them struggle and scrape made me realise how much they loved us all.

Logically I know that lavishing the children in my family with gifts isn't the right thing to do but logic goes out the window when the Christmas spirit takes hold. By Christmas spirit I mean the carefully constructed delights found at shopping centres and broadcast by companies designed to leave us feeling exactly like I feel most Christmases.

Monz recommends the 'perfect Christmas present'.

As though I haven't spent enough and should probably stock up on more, more, more, just in case.

In case of what?

It's not even as though the shops close for that long over the Christmas period. If I do forget someone, there's always a local grocery store open that sells chocolates and cards and vouchers.

So I keep on making my careful budgets, shopping for everything on the list and then blowing them at the last minute. Even my original budgets look a little indulgent.

I can afford it, sort of. I have the money. But I've taken it from other areas of expense in my budget, so can I really afford it?

I feel terrible that I am spending three times as much as most Australian families, but in my circles what I am spending is normal, smaller than normal. I really hope that this year I resist that last-minute insecure splurge. It will make for a better New Year and help me see beyond the materialistic nature of most family Christmas celebrations.

Some of the worst Santa photos on record. Trying not to laugh...

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