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Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-02-2007, 12:36 AM   #1
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Christmastime and spending expectations

This was my first Christmas as a "retired" person. I'm now living on a more limited budget than when I was working, and this raised a little bit of tension at Christmastime, with people expecting me to spend like I did when I was working.

When I was working I would contribute much more than my share towards group expenses like groceries, eating out, entertainment, and such. That seemed fair as my sister never has enough money and my uncle is an artist living on a very low budget. But now that I'm FIRE'd, I'm spending about the same per year as my sister, and watching my pennies just like my uncle. And I'm spending less per year than my parents spend on themselves. So I didn't contribute as much towards group expenses this year.

This ruffled feathers all around, as everyone else had to kick in a little more than they were used to.

This raises the question of what is reasonable... should I contribute according to my yearly spending budget (meaning small contributions), or according to my net worth (at least twice that of any other family members, meaning higher contributions). Or, as I'm learning might be best, just contribute what I feel comfortable with.

This sort of issue is coming up for me in other contexts... for instance deciding how much to contribute to my place of worship. On the one hand I'm blessed with much more time and savings than most people my age (mid-thirties) but on the other hand I am living on a much more limited budget than most people around me. I do believe in giving according to one's means, but I'm not sure what my means are.

I'd be curious to hear how y'all handle deciding these things.
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-02-2007, 06:32 AM   #2
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

I struggle with this too. To make the retirement nestegg last, I have to limit my spending on relatives and causes to what fits within my budget. There may be an emergency that breaks the budget, but that will mean living tight for a while. But I don't consider holidays an emergency. I made the decision to retire early, which is a selfish decision. Now that I have made the decision it will do nobody much good to live beyond my means. If there is money left after we die, that excess can then go to help others.

I told my relatives that I made the decision to retire, that I felt I had worked hard long enough. This would mean me spending less on them and that they couldn't always count on my coming through. But I also said that if an emergency comes up, ask for help for goodness sakes. We would figure it out one way or another. My relatives are not spendthrifts plus they have a hard time asking for help even when they need it. If they wasted money I would have a different plan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by free4now

This ruffled feathers all around, as everyone else had to kick in a little more than they were used to.
As this was discretionary spending, they didn't have to kick in more, the celebration could have been toned down instead, couldn't it? I wouldn't feel guilty about the ruffled feathers.
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-02-2007, 11:42 AM   #3
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

Quote:
Originally Posted by free4now
This was my first Christmas as a "retired" person. I'm now living on a more limited budget than when I was working, and this raised a little bit of tension at Christmastime, with people expecting me to spend like I did when I was working.
Like Martha says, it sounds like your family needs a new set of holiday traditions. Holidays are hard enough without the smoldering resentment over money issues.

I much prefer to donate my time than my money. The former is comparatively worthless (or at least in greater abundance) and unlikely to be wasted, while the latter is less available and can't afford to be wasted.
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-02-2007, 07:56 PM   #4
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

Well, first of all, people often react negatively when things change. It's not fair, but that's human nature. But you've made the change, and now they can get used to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by free4now
Or, as I'm learning might be best, just contribute what I feel comfortable with.
I think this is best. You don't "owe" your relations any of this. It's a gift, and if the giver is not comfortable giving, than something is not right. It doesn't matter how much something is taken for granted or received poorly, it's still a gift.

Quote:
This sort of issue is coming up for me in other contexts... for instance deciding how much to contribute to my place of worship. On the one hand I'm blessed with much more time and savings than most people my age (mid-thirties) but on the other hand I am living on a much more limited budget than most people around me. I do believe in giving according to one's means, but I'm not sure what my means are.
Well now you are blessed with more of a very valuable commodity - your time. So, if you are so inclined, contribute more of your time and be less concerned about contributing money.

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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-02-2007, 08:11 PM   #5
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

This is interesting to me as I am still working, however, I rarely give large gifts during Christmas---I'm good at several hobbies (knitting and cooking) and so I send handmade gifts - my time is valuable and most of my relatives know that to hand knit a shawl or sweater or socks is time consuming. I guess I'll be fine when I retire as I'm like Southwest - my 'customers' have low expectations :-)

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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-02-2007, 08:27 PM   #6
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

I spent $700 on gifts, and I feel like I was able to get really nice things for the people on my list. Admittedly I have a short list.

My son finally graduated from university, so I am giving him a really nice Canon XTI digital SLR camera. He deserves it- he put himself through a math major/applied math minor, with no financial help from me, and only a little from a small inheritance he got. He nevertheless is carrying very little student loan debt.

Additionally, he managed to meet and marry an outstanding woman, survive a bit of unemployment, come out with a better job than before, and feed the snowboarding monkey on his back.

Ha
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-03-2007, 02:47 PM   #7
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

I would argue that your "means" is your annual FIRE budget, not your networth (even if that is larger than other family members), and that spending, whether for gifts, donations, or anything else that can be planned must fit within that budget.

Your time, as others have said, is now more plentiful. For those of us still w*orking, time is a very valuable commodity.

Most non-profits and, I assume faith communities, track volunteer hours and often assign a $$ value to that time as a contribution.

As for family, yes, change is hard, especially if they were not part of the decision. So, start talking now for next year and by then your "gifts" can be repairs, errands, or chores that family members would have to pay someone else to do beucase they don't have the time!
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-03-2007, 02:58 PM   #8
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

tell them that christmas in cancelled

seriously i dont understand christmas peer pressure, I just dont bother with any of it
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-03-2007, 03:00 PM   #9
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

We have a new family tradition which we started this year. If you're over 18 you don't get a gift and you don't buy gifts.

It made the whole season so much more enjoyable.

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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-03-2007, 04:29 PM   #10
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations
Old 01-04-2007, 02:53 PM   #11
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Re: Christmastime and spending expectations

Quote:
Originally Posted by saluki9
We have a new family tradition which we started this year. If you're over 18 you don't get a gift and you don't buy gifts.

It made the whole season so much more enjoyable.

My family and I all spend no more than $20 - 30 per person for gifts. So there are boxes under the tree, but minimal stress.
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