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Other Articles from The Villager

Overspending: A Tale of Christmas Past

Sun, 16 December 2012 18:27
by Mr. T
Columns

It may be hard to find the silver lining in the economic downturn, but for most people the recession has given us at least one important gift or lesson: to be cured from our shameful habit of overspending at Christmas.
If you have not got the lesson by now then please receive it.
For years, most of us have vowed to cut back and spend less during the festive season because we know the consequences of our actions come January. Unfortunately,   in each of those years, we failed utterly.
Despite our modest, carefully constructed list of presents, most of us would invariably fall prey to a last-minute shopping frenzy, fuelled by the sudden fear that our children were going to find our gifts meagre or lacking.  That’s the thought that we plant in our minds. Haunted by an image of the children’s r disappointed faces on Christmas morning, most parents would forget their firm resolutions and find themselves randomly snatching up every train set, stuffed animal or fairy princess and anything that the kids cry for.

Christmas morning would arrive and people would watch in dismay as children grew exhausted and overwrought while ploughing through this veritable mountain of gifts. First came the overweight stockings, bulging with small toys, chocolates and fancy hair clips – already more than enough.
Then the enormous stack of brightly wrapped boxes that threatened to dwarf the Christmas tree, each one filled with a doll, game, book or scarf. The day would end with a trip to Grandma’s, where children will again get a second round of presents from aunts and uncles, pushing their already overabundant present haul into the realm of the completely obscene.
I remember on Christmas my uncle, who would rather darn his old socks than go shopping, He said one day to his wife “Um, honey, do you realise that our over-consuming culture is destroying the earth?”   
How overspending can kill the Christmas spirit
I realised how overspending can kill the Christmas spirit, and the knowledge never failed to squeeze the Christmas joy right out of me.
Even worse, I knew that in my misguided attempt to provide for our children with the kind of magical Christmas experience I remembered from my own childhood, I was teaching them all the wrong lessons: that more is, well, more, and that they should want -and even expect – this kind of wanton excess.
  We were teaching children wrong lessons that Christmas was a time to overspend and January was a time to run away from creditors.
But then another year would pass and, despite most of the parent’s good intentions, we will still do it all over again. And like the hangover that follows too many sips of Windhoek Lager or a bottle of whiskey, the recovery took much longer than the initial revelry.
Our profligate spending will be followed by months of struggle to pay off credit cards, along with months of the guilt over our loss of control.
Then came the economic free-fall which started in late 2008.  Most of the families have already scaled back their expenses after either the wife or husbands left a corporate job or had their salary slashed.
The change down in spending becomes so difficult for most people and a good number supplemented their income through borrowing from one bank to another. Another lesson was taught by SHARKS who tormented a good number of those debtors who fail to payback. A number lost their valuable items and some went to an extent of losing their houses.
Then the stock market plummeted worldwide and speculators were flushed out, the housing market tanked and, like so many, our comfort turned into panic as people watched savings evaporate into thin air. Two months into the crisis, with Christmas looming back then most people set out with their usual good intentions and carefully planned list of presents, and . . . this time, the lesson learned most succeeded.

Christmas Magic Without the Buyer’s Remorse
Gone are  the wild last-minute impulses, the feelings of nostalgia that made us confuse the creation of Christmas magic with  smothering the  children with gifts.
 With all that we have lost and all the uncertainty ahead, this is no time to rack up bills that you might or might not be able to pay off and it is this awareness; call it fear that should keep you firmly on the straight and narrow. If an item is not on your list this Christmas, don’t even consider it. The reason you forgot about it means it is not necessary.
Best of all, when Christmas come s and kids open their small pile of carefully chosen gifts, no one will complain or look disappointed, then you will feel the refreshing feeling.  On the contrary, I think you will be relieved.
For the first time in years, this Christmas you should have a  day which will have  none of that feverish, slightly sick feeling that comes from over-consumption of anything, whether it’s presents or whiskey. 
It turns out that the “magic of Christmas” does not rely on excess after all, which is a lesson to remember if the economy ever recovers.  Happy Holidays