FW-99 -- The Holidays: How to Survive the Last Minute Crush

* * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.

December 15th, 2006 Issue No. 99

***** The Holidays: How to Survive the Last Minute Crush ****
- Credits


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***** The Holidays: How to Survive the Last Minute Crush ****

Dear Frugalites,

Greetings, and my apologies for going almost a month and a
half without another Frugal Update for you. This frugality
has been too busy with work and other pursuits to be much
of a saver recently. Oh - the taxi rides! The convenience food!
The pile of receipts waiting to be entered into my household
accounts (probably won't happen)! My wallet weeps.

Yet, at the same time, I couldn't let another week go by
without commenting on the year end holidays of Christmas
and Japanese New Year's - a bank buster if I ever saw one.
What with presents, cards, shipping expenses, holiday meals,
decorations, parties, and events, it can be an expensive time
of year. Especially now that there are only a few weeks left!
So, below please enjoy my Top Three Frugal Holiday Tips -
guaranteed to save you a few minutes (or yen) this season.

1) Buy (and Send) Christmas Cards Cheaply!
One of the funnest parts (or biggest chores) of the holiday
season is preparing Christmas cards. If you're sending to a
number of people overseas, just purchasing the cards can be
a real headache: most cards in Japanese stores are sold as
singles, not as sets, and can run Y200 or Y300 at least per card.
I've found some good deals on Christmas cards at Y100 store
chains like Daiso before, with some adorable 'pop up cards,'
musical cards, or ornament cards for only 100 yen each with
envelopes. You've got to get there early though:
their limited selection runs out quickly.
Shimojima, the wholesale stationary supplier, is also
a good bet (www.shimojima.co.jp/english).

If you've got a digital camera, the online photo shop
Shutterfly is also a good option. Last year I was able to
both create, and mail, my cards online - Shutterfly even
took care of the postage. Just go to the website's store,
choose 'Cards,' and have fun. For those of you sending cards
to recipients within the US, creating and mailing your cards
using this service is much cheaper than doing it from
Japan. Each personalized photo card I sent, which included a
personal message, cost less than $2.00, including a 55 cent
stamp. It was quick too! Also, note that the Japanese Post
Office can also send your Christmas cards at a
reduced rate if asked.

2) Budget your Christmas presents.
This is the best way to make sure you don't end up with
"overruns." I start every November with an Excel chart,
including the name of the person to be bought for and how
much I can spend.
This helps keep you on budget, and helps avoid buying
'double' presents or forgetting about that present you had
tucked away in the closet at the last moment.
Don't forget to factor shipping expenses
(if there are any) into your estimates.

3) Give less.
Man, do I sound like a Scrooge now. But I do mean this
in the best possible way. Especially if you'll be in Japan
for the holidays, you have a perfect excuse to cut back on
the excess a little bit. Can your extended family agree to
have a name drawing for present purchases among adults?
Can adult siblings agree not to exchange presents,
especially if both of them are trying to save money? Can
you make a donation in someone's name for a Christmas gift,
instead of adding to the global landfill? Some of these
ideas might seem revolutionary (there certainly were to me,
an American steeped in our tradition of Christmas plenty),
but the longer I'm here - the more I tend to feel that it
is possible to keep the "feeling" of holiday present exchange
(through cards, letters, phone calls, or even
a small present) without the stuff attached.

Some else, apparently, agrees with me:

Happy Holiday, Frugal Ones!

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: JI
Copyright 2005 Japan Inc. Communications