Christmas is known as a time to give and share, a time to take out your precious crockery set, along with your best outfit and showcase what you have achieved in the past year. A concerning trend in my coloured culture is that I’ve seen time and time again how families who simply cannot afford to overspend, do in fact overspend. I’ve heard of people buying thousands worth in clothing, only to end up making loans to pay the household expenses in January. This seems to be a dangerous cultural trend that leaves the poor, well poor.
I asked my mom why my brother and I didn’t receive any Christmas clothes when we were little and she simply said it was because we didn’t need it, we had more than enough, which was true. Is spending over the Christmas period a way to show that you can afford something, that you have actually achieved something throughout the year? Does it stem from some form of peer pressure, like because my cousin has that, I should have it too or have something even better? Why do people who know they cannot afford things, create debt around the Christmas period?
Perhaps it lies in the differences of culture, the differences in education, simply the differences in demographic? Is my family and I an outlier in the festive activities or are we just maybe a little odd to not indulge?
Right now I am of the notion that we, as in my coloured folk, spend far too much on things that we simply cannot afford and I want to know why.
To find out more about the culture around Christmas time I asked a few people, who will remain anonymous, whether they too indulged in the spending habits that come over the festive season. The people I asked are of different age, race and gender to get a better perspective and understanding.
I asked a few people about their Christmas spending habits and only six responded.
Why do you spend more during the Christmas period?
It seems that spending more money on Christmas stems from the fact that people receive bonuses during the Christmas period. And if a bonus is not received people save a little bit extra in order to splurge on the holidays, whether that be going out, buying fancy food or new clothes.
What do you spend the most on?
The most common answer when asked what the participants spent their money on was food and gifts. I would say that my family may be a bit of an outlier here because yes we spend a lot on food, but not so much on gifts.
What does your financial situation look like in January?
This question had a lot of mixed answers. Three participants expressed that January is a financially stressful month and it is caused by their Christmas spending. The other three participants explained that they have learnt from their past mistakes and don’t spend to the point where they may find themselves in trouble.
Christmas food and regrets
So let’s talk about yummy Christmas food. I’ve noticed, according to gender, that all women said they spend mostly on food whereas the men said they spend more on gifts. I’ve also noticed that the men when asked, said they do not regret spending the money opposed to the women who ultimately regretted it.
One particular participant, let’s call her participant A, who is coloured and 36 years old, explained that she always used to spend more than she could afford during the Christmas period. Participant A also believes that the coloured community goes into debt because people don’t plan for the future, they may have a lack of knowledge on how to work with money and because of family tradition. She is now trying to break that family tradition that she grew up with. “… learn from your mistakes. Think about the future. Buy things during the year.”
Participant B, male, age 30 and white, explains that because he didn’t grow up with much, this reinforced the notion to save as much as he can. However, he says that just because he’s family doesn’t spend huge amounts on Christmas doesn’t mean he hasn’t seen it being done in his own community. He too believes that people struggle financially in January because they don’t know how to work with money.
Participant C, female, age 45, and black, made an interesting point. She started her own tradition so her kids wouldn’t feel excluded, which may be some form of peer pressure in essence. “My grandmother raised me and we were extremely poor, we saved all the cents for food always. When I had my first child I wanted to make sure she enjoyed her Christmas like other kids and doesn’t compare herself with other kids who can afford. So I made it a tradition to get her clothes every December, not just one or two outfits but a whole wardrobe, I still do that for my youngest as well.”
It appears that people of all races, ages and genders overspend during the Christmas period. I think maybe I was wrapped up in the things that coloured people do that I didn’t look outside of my bubble and acknowledge that maybe people of other races and cultures do the same thing. With that being said, it seems there’s an even bigger issue at hand and that is mainly that people have no idea how to work with money, people face peer pressure and the influence of family tradition.
The question now is, how do we address these issues and do people even consider it something to be concerned about?
Read more here on why we should save money
Tell us: Do you think that spending more money over Christmas is a problem? Why or why not?