Christmas is a time for opening presents in front of the fireplace, spreading the holiday cheer amongst friends, family and colleagues alike, and doing our bit to share with those who have less…. Yeah right.
In Singapore, Christmas means jostling through the crowds on Orchard Road as you desperately search for appropriate gifts for all the colleagues at work you know will buy you something, and frantically searching for stuff to do on Christmas Eve and NYE because anything’s better than counting down in front of your computer.
As you hurtle towards the end of the year, don’t get so caught up with trying to enjoy the festivities that you fall prey to the following spending black holes that will suck up your money so hard you’ll be feeling the effects well into the next year.
Buying gifts for colleagues and friends at group gatherings
The concept of Christmas sounds all warm and fuzzy: you give presents to those close to your heart to show that you wurve them!
But in practice, this results in a lot of money being wasted on a bunch of colleagues you need to buy gifts for mainly because they’re part of your team at work and you’ll look bad if you’re the only one who doesn’t buy presents for everyone else.
Come on, if you’re honest with yourself, your boss probably isn’t on your list of loved ones to buy gifts for (doesn’t apply to those working for family businesses), yet so many Singaporeans end up buying presents for their bosses.
The same principle applies for big group gatherings where everyone is buying presents for everyone else and you don’t want to look like a Scrooge for coming empty handed. You might only like a few people in the group enough to spend money on them, but bringing presents only for certain people in the group could be social suicide.
The best way to escape this is to physically remove yourself from the scene. Take a few days of leave before the Christmas weekend so you skip your office’s Christmas party, and nobody will notice your absence.
Going out on Christmas Eve and NYE
For all the hype, you might think Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are two of the most momentous days of the year. But they’re actually two of the most unpleasant days to leave the house.
Opportunistic businesses will spare no efforts to raise their prices. (For instance, last year, 1-Altitude was charging people $68++ to join their NYE party.)
But that’s really not the worst thing about staying out till midnight on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The absolutely worst thing is that every imaginable public place will be jam packed with people.
When the clock strikes 12, you’d better hope you still have lots of fuel in your tank, because if you don’t have the energy to stay out till 3am, you can expect finding a cab to be nigh impossible, and Uber surge prices to go through the roof.
The cheapest way to spend Christmas is usually at somebody’s home, since you won’t have to deal with ridiculous restaurant prices or cover charges. Just hit up the supermarket for your contribution of wine or potato salad, and make sure you can hitch a ride home with somebody in the group.
But if you’re not lucky enough to already have ready-made plans and you have a bunch of friends who won’t let you hide in your room over the holidays, it’s a good idea to make some cheap plans now before you all get sucked into some horrible countdown party at Marina Bay. Organise a barbecue or a potluck and mahjong session at someone’s home so everyone can beat the crowds in town.
Spending the long weekend overseas
Christmas Day and New Year’s Day both take place on Sundays in 2016. That means that Monday is a public holiday on both weeks… which, for Singaporeans, means a long weekend.
That also means everyone will be trying desperately to flee the country. If you haven’t already bought your air tickets out of here, be prepared to spend a ton of money.
Let’s take a trip to Bangkok, for example. If you plan to leave on Friday, the 23rd of December and return on Sunday, the 26th, you’re looking at paying a minimum of $300++ for your tickets, which is 3-4 times the usual price.
If you haven’t already made plans and are determined to get out of the country for the long weekend, your best bet would be to avoid flying and choose a destination you can reach by car, bus or ferry.
That limits your choices to places like Batam (reachable by ferry) or Cameron Highlands (reachable by bus). The advantage is that you don’t end up having to pay inflated prices.
What are your plans for Christmas and the New Year? Tell us in the comments!