Emulating Santa’s Financial Habits

Santa Claus is a giver, a saver and a list-maker.

At the end of each year, we watch movies, hear stories and sing carols of the jolly ol’ elf who visits good little boys and girls around the world, delivering presents and joy as he goes. Setting aside the unpleasant consumerism associated with Santa Claus, and, for the purposes of this post, even his historically religious nature, let’s focus on three positive money management characteristics St. Nick role models for us.

Santa is a Giver.

This one is pretty obvious. Santa gives and gives and gives with very little expected in return. Even if we leave cookies and milk out on Christmas Eve for Santa, our balance sheet generally tilts heavily in his favor.

So why does he give? And could his jolly demeanor be related to his generosity? “Generosity First” is a motto I was taught by example growing up and one I started to encourage others to consider since I wrote my first book back in 2013. I truly believe, from my research and my experience, that those who give generously tend to be better managers of their remaining funds than those who never give at all. When we stay connected to the needs of others in our communities, we are less likely to make frivolous purchases and more likely to put our money toward important goals. In cases where we truly have no financial resources to give, we can always give of our time, our energies, and our support.

Santa is a giver, a saver and a list maker!

Santa is a giver, a saver and a list maker!

Yes, Santa is a Saver.

I love movies about “saving” Christmas. Buddy saves Christmas in Elf by reconnecting with his business-obsessed father and helping to rekindle his town’s Christmas spirit. The Three Spirits of Christmas help to save Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Tim Allen’s character saves Christmas several times in the The Santa Clause franchise. In other movies and shows, Earnest saves Christmas, Elmo saves Christmas, Inspector Gadget saves Christmas, and even Noddy, Mr. Hoopeyloops, Diego, and Hercules have apparently saved Christmas at some point.

Santa Claus, though, actually saves FOR Christmas. He and his elves work year round to ensure their toyshop is prepared. It would be easy for Santa to justify waiting until the kids are back on school in August and September to start thinking about the Christmas rush. I am not saying Christmas Eve is not a hectic time around the North Pole, but it would be a complete flop if Santa did not build and save toys all year for the coming Christmas Eve activities.

I have struggled in the past to be a saver. Heck, if it were for automatic savings and remote check deposits, I would have no savings habits today. I am doing better than I used to, though. When Christmas Eve used to roll around, I would frantically run to the local discount store to browse the disheveled and nearly empty shelves for anything I could afford for my wife.

Fortunately, I opened up a savings account into which I contribute year round some Christmas and birthday gift giving money. Now, each month, when I receive my mileage reimbursement check, I use the mobile deposit feature on my credit union’s app so that I do not even have to go into the branch. Good thing, too, because I would be tempted to get cash back and spend it on dining out at lunch or some other luxury.

Santa is a list maker.

It even says so in the songs about him. He doesn’t only make a list. He actually uses it regularly and checks it for mistakes. I would bet that Santa even carries his list with him wherever he goes.

What a great example of being financially organized! A few lists that would be helpful for us to put together and look at regularly would include a list of two or three of our most important financial goals, a list of our expected income and expenses for the month (yes, a budget), and even a list of possible gifts for upcoming birthdays and holidays. I use an app called Trello (any list keeping app will do) to curate a list of ideas my wife mentions throughout the year. I still miss a lot of them, but at least I am not at a loss for what she likes come Christmas Eve when I run to the store for last minute shopping.

The biggest challenge with lists, though, is checking them twice. At various times in my life, I have created what I consider to be several “perfect” spending plans. Unfortunately, unless I went back and looked at these plans regularly and adjusted my spending accordingly, they ended up serving no purpose.

This year and every year, as you give, save and prepare, we wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Prosperous New Year!

Todd Christensen