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Having seen this year’s Christmas advert by John Lewis, it left me thinking about the financial impact that Christmas gifts can have on other people.
If you haven’t seen the advert, it’s a reverse timeline of the life of Elton John. It shows him throughout the decades singing whilst playing piano. This follows him right back to probably around three years old where he receives his first piano at Christmas. I guess he must wonder what his life would look like if he had never received that present. Bit of a “Sliding Doors” moment if you like.
In Elton’s case, this Christmas gift has obviously complemented a natural talent which has then been nurtured and encouraged and made him the millionaire he is today.
When people have asked me in the past what I would like for Christmas (fyi I hate this question) I’ve always tried to think of things that will save me money throughout the year.
Last year I asked for a scooter.
I was about to start a new job that didn’t come with parking. I knew I would need to park outside of town and walk in. This was going to add another 20 minutes to my commute. The alternative being to park in town and pay £6 a day (!) for parking. Simply not an option. With the cost of childcare, I needed to make going to work cost as little as possible otherwise it just wouldn’t be financially worth going.
Getting my scooter means that on the days when I’m not car sharing and saving even more time and the cost of fuel, I park up in a residential area on the outskirts of town and scoot my way in. I’m not even talking about an electric scooter. Although it is adult size and can take my weight, it most definitely is a kids style, kick yourself along scooter. And its great! Its fast, gets my heart pumping first thing, which in turn switches my brain on for the day. It also folds, so I can stash it under my desk at work neatly without it becoming a health and safety hazard.
If I had to tot up how much this Christmas gift has saved me, I’m certain it would add up to hundreds already and that’s just in one year. The financial impact of this Christmas gift has been really positive.
However, there are gifts which end up costing too and that’s why I think this time of year we need to think about how we can avoid burdening our loved ones.
Here’s my tops tips on things to avoid:
1. Buy wooden toys instead of electronics. Not all parents are going to be able to afford to keep replacing batteries for remote control cars for example.
2. Buy unbranded/non-designer labelled clothing for children. You could be contributing to an unhealthy expectation of what children then want to wear. This may be unsustainable for their parents to maintain. No mum wants to have to say to their children that they can’t afford what they’re wishing for, so tone down your purchases to suit the lifestyle kids are already used to.
3. Buy a full year subscription rather than offer to pay for the first month to get someone started. You never really know someone’s financial position. Even if they appear to have it all, this could have been gifted or paid for on credit. Try not to assume that someone can maintain a payment for something which you have set going for them.
4. Consider giving cash rather than vouchers. If you’re stuck for ideas of what to buy someone, don’t limit where they can spend their gift. They may be more grateful to be able to buy groceries during the Christmas holidays rather than more treats on themselves. I’ve received cash before and simply needed it to refuel my car to get me to work and so I can visit family. Everyone’s priorities are different. Cash allows people to make their own choices.
5. If you’re buying clothes for someone, ensure its not dry clean only. The whole life costs of a gift can become a financial burden to the recipient. Make sure whatever the gift, that its easy and cheap to maintain.
6. Ask yourself if its going to cost the recipient anything to dispose of an existing item to be able to keep your gift to them. In the past I have been gifted white goods. However they’re notoriously expensive/awkward to dispose of. If you’re thinking of doing something similar, you can normally pay a little extra at checkout to organise for installation of the new item and disposal of the old.
So there’s my top tips. Let me know if you have any other ideas over on my facebook page here.
For my own boys, I’m encouraging their imagination so secondhand books, fancy dress and a few wooden toys will be arriving from Father Christmas this year. I hope that this builds their creativity and makes them question the world. This is a quality which I believe will help them with their future careers. That way they can afford me a nice care home when the time comes!