Holiday spending follow-up: The money hangover sets in

In December, I posted Let’s do something different this year, which outlined our holiday financial plan of attack. It included no credit cards, strict spending limits and the giving of presence not presents.

After the jump, let’s see how the Applebums did.

All debit, no credit

I made a video about how insidious credit card spending becomes. They encourage impulsive and irresponsible spending. Millions of ways to reward yourself for all your hard work. And as I say in the vid, we just aren’t working that hard.

Think about it this way, are you working harder than the person in the sweatshop who made your pants? Are you working harder than the laborers lined up at Home Depot in the terrible weather hoping for day labor with no insurance if something goes wrong? No, we are not working harder than anyone else, we just get paid better and have more opportunities to spend more than we are earning. /rant  But we have to get out of this mindset that we deserve all this shiny plastic crap. It’s the problem, not the reward.

Switching to debit only was the only way to keep us honest. It’s much harder to rationalize irresponsible spending when you have to pay NOW not some day in the future. We did pretty well about only using the debit. There were are couple of times I panicked about our checking account getting too low, but I only did it twice. So the grand total of the holidays that went on the CC was, drumroll please, $100. Before, I would guess we put anywhere from $500 – $1000 in credit card spending, so that is a 50 – 90 % reduction. Yea!

Strictly Enforced Budgets

I’m really proud of how well I stayed on budget, it was NOT easy. I did myself a few favors, I shopped well in advance and I did a number of short controlled bursts. The result? I got Mr. Applebum exactly what he wanted and needed and it was on-sale and just under budget.

Same for the kids, I didn’t get any big ticket items, just a few carefully picked gifts. It didn’t feel like much at all, in fact, days before Christmas I started to worry that I was letting them down, but I held steady.

The hardest day was Christmas Eve, when I had to run to the grocery for some meal ingredients. All I wanted to do was a get a bunch of last minute holiday indulgences to make it feel special. I had these overwhelming urges to throw stocking stuffers, last minute toys, dvds, slippers, candy, anything into our cart. In fact I did. I actually put some holiday impulse items in the cart and then took them back out. I kept reminding myself how close I was to staying in budget and it gave me strength to not spend.

Mr Applebum stayed on budget when shopping for me as well. I ended up returning the yoga clothes because they didn’t fit. I was planning on exchanging the items, but I just didn’t see anything I needed. The fact was, it was two days after Christmas and people were still spending like crazy and it really repulsed me.  I thought of all the stuff I had purchased for myself over the year and realized that I want for NOTHING. I left without buying anything, it felt great!

My favorite gifts didn’t cost a thing

We made some wonderful family memories. We did just about everything in this post and then some. Mr. Applebum took the day before Christmas off and we had a magical family day in downtown Seattle, that’s a picture from the day at the top of the post. On Christmas Eve, we got the kids picture taken with Santa at the mall. We spent an hour in-line with an African family consisting of 2 moms, 5 kids. We had a wonderful time keeping each other company. The older kids were so sweet with our kids and the litttlest Applebum loved the babies. This is one of my favorite picture of the holidays, it is in our family album right next to the Applebum’s picture with Santa. The ladies and I hugged when it was time to say good-bye.

We aren’t out of the woods yet

Not by a long shot. In fact, this is the first step in a long journey out of this mess. The problem with finally seeing the reality is that I can’t un-see it. Everything I pointed out in I’m the middle class whose being squeezed out is the reality we are facing. This year, after we pay off medical deductables that have been raised to $1000, our portion of the medical costs will be doubled. Plus, I can’t stop thinking about the $2400 tax payment I have coming due in April. And that’s before we address the elephant in the room, a LOC that is out of control.

Deep cleansing breaths, one day at a time. We can do this, we must do this.

Related Posts

I’m the middle class whose being squeezed out. And I’m pissed.

Let’s do something different this year

Joy don’t cost a thing

Story of Stuff

Story of Stuff, Part Deux


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. AllScott
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 18:28:08

    Hey, this is good stuff. The Washington Post has a great personal finance columnist – Michelle Singletary who writes a lot about similar themes, and preaches frugality. You should check out her work.


  2. Trackback: Repair It! « Bonita Appleblog

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