One of the major questions aspiring nomads and other travelers have is how to save up all the money needed to travel for an indeterminate amount of time. I’ve written a few posts about developing a long-term strategy and in this post, I will supplement that strategy with some words of advice geared towards helping savers resist the temptation of overspending during the holiday shopping season. During a time when you’re trying to save your money, it can be hard to stay disciplined while everyone around you is being swept up by a wave of frenzied consumerism, festive holiday parties, and lots of holiday travel. There are many areas in your life that require special saving techniques during this time, but for now I will discuss holiday shopping. Alas, I present my tips and strategies to either save money while shopping over the holidays, save your sanity, and/or help improve our world!
Set the ground rules for gift giving
I’ve heard of some families putting names in hat and resolving to only buy 1 gift for the person whose name they pull. What’s great about this strategy is that everyone still gets a nice treat, but no one is spending hours upon hours being molested by Christmas displays in shopping malls to take care of everyone on their list.
Make a donation in your family’s name
Will people outwardly complain about this and pan the idea? Yes. Will they joke about what a cheapskate you are, then claim they were only “joking” when you seem hurt by their crassness? Definitely. Will they try very hard to pretend they totally support the idea and say you’re doing a good deed while secretly cursing you out for being such an elitist snob? Probably that too. But remember, if your intentions are pure and you dedicate the time to ensuring that your hard-earned money is in fact working to make this a world a better place, then you did well and you don’t outside validation to confirm this fact. And since you won’t be wasting all of your precious time driving around in a car, stabbing people over a parking spot, and navigating your way through impossibly crowded malls, you can now invest your time in doing such underrated activities like having a conversation with your loved ones.
Put your skills to use
Have you ever considered making gifts for your loved one? It sounds like a lame grade school arts and craft project, but you just may have some creative skills that can be put to good use. During my first year out of college, I was a slave to my student loans and was using every trick in the book to pay them down as quickly as possible. That year for Christmas, I decided I could not afford to buy Christmas gifts for everyone and I coincidentally got mixed up with the scintillating art of knitting. I didn’t actually go anywhere with this newfound skill; all I could do was knit in one straight line. This meant everyone was getting scarves for Christmas! While they weren’t the most popular gifts that year, I found that making everyone’s gift was a very therapeutic and enjoyable way to spend my time. I had fun mingling with the ladies at the crafts store and I was tickled at all of the varieties of yarn. Then I found that the repetitive task of looping holes was very calming for an overwhelmed psyche trying to get a grip on the burden of student loans. It was also labor intensive enough to keep me from doing activities that would put me further in debt.
Tell the adults in your life to suck it
Why not just say, you’re only buying presents for the kids this year? Adults are complicated, usually have everything they need, everything they want is ridiculously expensive, and are just downright boring when it comes to opening presents. Don’t let those Kay Jewelers commercials fool you. No woman opens a present with such shocking disbelief and joy over receiving some blingity-bling-bling object, and no man is that patient and happy to present the gift. If you need to poop away a month’s salary while begrudgingly stumbling through suburban shopping hell just to get a kiss, you’re doing something wrong with your life.
Instead if you focus on the children, you reap many benefits such as cheaper gifts, genuine happiness from the gift recipient and the big draw – it is socially acceptable for you as an adult without children to spend countless hours testing out products in a giant toy store!
You could also just break up with your significant other or start a family war at an early enough time that renders you not liable to purchase gifts with the intent of exchanging them if you don’t have the nerve to tell people you don’t want to buy them presents this year.
If you do have kids, why don’t you actually make good on your threats to put them on the “naughty” list?
Nothing makes me want to laugh and vomit at the same time more than listening to some painfully deluded parent try and tell their children that if they don’t stop behaving Santa won’t bring them presents. Please. Everyone and your children know that you’ve already got the next super amazing video game system hidden in that spot in the house that you think is so not obvious. They know, we know and you know, you won’t make good on that threat. Chances are, if you have kids, they’re probably misbehaving at least 50% of the time and are already costing you your sanity and life savings. Why not ease the financial burden on yourself and cut them off as soon as they start acting naughty? They’ll get over it.
Check out Kickstarter
On a more serious note, if you must purchase material gifts for children as well as grown-up children, I think that Kickstarter could serve as a very unique marketplace. I casually supported a project from a fellow reader, but after giving it a bit of thought, I realized the reward for this particular project would actually be a truly special gift for my lovey dovey Dillion (I have a sneaking suspicious he doesn’t actually read my blog, but in case I’m wrong, I’ll save the details of the project to maintain some semblance of a surprise). Then I started browsing some more projects and noticed that the rewards for many of the projects would actually make very nice gifts and this would be a great way to fulfill your shopping list. Not only would you be buying more personal and thoughtful gifts, but you would be supporting local, up-and-coming designers, artists, photographers, chefs and an array of other creative. Of course there are some nuances to be wary of that would make gift giving with Kickstarter rewards not always practical. Sometimes the reward fulfillment won’t take place by the time you need the gift, and then there’s always the chance the project may not get the funding it needs. However, many projects reach their funding goals well before the deadline and in these cases you can usually be certain of reward fulfillment.
Speaking of supporting local artists, this brings me to what will be my modus operandi for this holiday season – buying only from local businesses. After leaving my corporate job over a year ago, my career interests have shifted to traveling and writing as well as supporting the burgeoning movement of local business campaigns. My interest in supporting local economies continues today and I think that it’s no accident I ended up working for a locally based marketing firm that sells local gift experiences.
I could spend an entire post touting the benefits of “going local”, but for this line of advice, I want to recommend buying fewer local goods solely for the sake of decency. Sure it’s fun and amusing to read stories about the obnoxious things people will do on Black Friday to get a good deal, but when you juxtapose that story with one of a mother being trampled to death at a Walmart, it really does become quite distasteful to support these businesses that drive people past the edge of reason to where they would assault another human being over a TV set. My hope is that society has reached a tipping point in the level of consumerism we exhibit during the holidays and the insanity it drives us towards will soon be a blurry image in the rearview mirror. To serve this end, I say buy less and buy from your local businesses. They generally have a zero-tolerance policy for customer-to-customer assaults, you have a greater opportunity for buying unique gifts, and a greater portion of the money you spend goes back into the local community in which you live.