Rob Stock: Christmas comes but once a year... and it's in mid-October

Retailers sell an expensive version of "perfect" at Christmas. It's better not to give their vision too much mental space.
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Retailers sell an expensive version of "perfect" at Christmas. It's better not to give their vision too much mental space.

OPINION: Christmas comes but once a year, and apparently it's on October 15.

That's when I got my first Christmas goodie- a chocolate Santa from a subversive co-worker disgusted Countdown was already selling them.

Christmas now rubs shoulders with Halloween.

I am not anti-Christmas, but I am anti-Christmas in mid-October. Too much Christmas is a form of mental and financial torture.

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Living well means taking part in society's calendar events, but we mustn't let money-grabbing "Big Retail" define them.

Instead, let me help you define your own, with my Twelve Rules of Christmas.

One: Turn the telly off when you see the first Christmas advert. Don't turn it on until the tree comes down. Bye-bye Big Retail pressure.

Two: Don't repeat past mistakes. Ten years' ago, I went to a Westfield mall in the week before Christmas. Never, ever again! Now, presents get bought early, and stored in the present cupboard.

Three: Focus on traditions you love, which you will find are "doing" traditions, not buying traditions. For me, it's making mincemeat, dressing the Christmas tree, and steaming and setting fire to a pudding.

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Four: Make Christmas a church day. I love church at Christmas. The wife and children go. I sit in the garden with a book and tea. Church reminds us what Jesus would have thought of commercialising his birthday.

Five: Be outdoors. Gardens, beaches, and parks are better places than the space directly in front of the TV. Breakfast at the beach tastes better than breakfast at home, even if the food is the same. Outdoors children are happy children.

Six: The quality of a Christmas is not measured by how much you spend. Children want happy, unstressed parents more than expensive presents. Dial back the gift-giving.

Seven: Set a budget. Make it stretch. Join a supermarket savings scheme, use amassed rewards points to buy gifts, etc. Focus on getting maximum merriness for each dollar.

Eight: Go super-frugal the week before Christmas to free up money. Eat from your cupboards, or make it a "potatoes and…" week. Booze costs, so ease up.

Nine: Some money blogs advise selling unwanted stuff online to make money to buy more stuff to give as gifts to people who already have lots of stuff. No, no, no! A cycle of buying and selling stuff is stupid. Give only what is wanted. Re-gift stuff you don't want. When in doubt, give food as gifts.

Ten: Avoid gift cards. People judge you on how much you have given. Each year brings "inflation" pressure.

Eleven: Don't try to make Christmas stretch for days and days. Christmas is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The rest are just days.

Twelve: Remember, the Christmas you give your kids sets the tone for all their future expectations. Don't lumber them with festival of retail excess.

GOLDEN RULES

  • Don't let "Big Retail" hijack Christmas
  • Keep gift-giving moderate
  • Focus on maximising merriness per dollar spent

 - Stuff

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