By Chris Hanson
Easton – I get treated like Ebenezer Scrooge at holiday time. After all, there is no investment advisor in Boston’s Enchanted Village. But rather than admonish my readers to rein in spending, I’m recommending you treat yourself this season.
My budget buster this year is commissioning a seamstress to recreate my childhood Christmas stocking for my nieces and nephews. Simply constructed out of red felt, the stocking’s exposed seams and zigzag edges affirm its homemade origins. It was monogrammed in gold glitter cursive writing “Christopher,” as I wasn’t yet The Wicked Smart Investor. None of these characteristics is what made this stocking special; it was the women who made it made and the great joy it foretold.
Travel back in time with me to 1973 Braintree, Massachusetts. It was a far less harried time when most families had a stay-at-home mother. These particular women were treasures. Many of them went through both the Great Depression and World War II and knew how to survive extremely trying times by working very hard with little complaining. Somehow they found endless energy and channeled it for the good of their families and the community as a whole.
One example of their good deeds was managing the St. Francis Christmas bazaar. It was a huge, jolly, almost overwhelming affair. There were tables full of crafts made by these mothers: hand knit hats and mittens, ornaments made from Popsicle sticks, and peppermint candy wreaths. A friend’s mother used to decorate baby food jars then fill them with candy. I guess there were hundreds of jars inhabiting their kitchen all through November.
It was at this bazaar that Ma bought me the stocking from people she describes as “some of the nicest women I’ve ever met.” Then a young widow, Ma was juggling raising 13 kids alone and a demanding nursing career. The St. Francis mothers were always helpful to her.
I loved that stocking because whenever it appeared, a show stopping Christmas was quickly approaching.
At my house, there were literally hundreds of presents under the tree. Ma used a Christmas Club account to budget for her favorite holiday, and what a holiday it was. Christmas morning was a festive mob scene. Every reasonably priced toy, board game, dollhouse, racetrack, and Tonka truck fueled the yuletide mayhem. Many of these Parker Bros, Fisher Price, and Milton Bradley toys were manufactured locally, making my memories even sweeter. Later in the day, neighbors and relatives would visit to play with the toys and view the wrapping paper enveloped aftermath. Ma spent a good amount of money, but all the presents under the tree were paid for. It was a blast.
So, Ma had Christmas on her terms and the St. Francis bazaar team had time to enjoy the fun stuff of motherhood. They earned these rewards. If you’re a regular saver, you’ve earned a reward too. Call it a cheat day from your financial diet. It doesn’t necessarily need to be for the holidays either. If you use a Christmas Club mentality of saving up for your rewards it can be any time of year. You won’t feel guilty and the stressors won’t mount. Long term self-denial can lead to financially calamitous spending.
My stocking expenditure isn’t that large, but I could have saved by purchasing mass produced stockings. It wouldn’t be the same; I’d feel it belittled the work of the St. Francis mothers. At the last minute, I increased my order; one for me and one for Ma.
However you choose to spend the holiday season, I wish you a joyous one.
About the Author: Chris Hanson is the author of The Wicked Smart Investor blog and a CPA who specializes in financial planning at Lindner Capital Adivisors in Hanover. He earned his BBA at the Isenberg School of Management University of Massachusetts and an MBA at Babson College’s F. W. Olin Graduate School of Business. He may be reached at (978) 888 – 5395 and you can read his blog at wickedsmartinvestor.blogspot.com. ∞
Reprinted from the December 2016 edition of the South Shore Senior News.