It’s a known fact among the younger members of our household that Father Christmas and his elves work hard all year getting ready for Christmas.
Last year there was an awkward moment when my eldest exercised her new reading skills and asked: ‘‘Why does this say made in China?’’
I felt tempted to make a joke about Santa outsourcing to lower-wage Chinese elves but decided against it and the awkward moment passed without further comment.
Just like Santa and his elves, many households spend all year getting ready for Christmas through the various options that exist for pre-funding festive celebrations including hamper companies, Christmas savings accounts and card schemes and supermarket Christmas clubs.
And given that this is the time of year when people are signing up for next year with hamper companies like Chrisco, it’s a good moment to think about the pros and cons of each of the options.
Ordinary bank account: Fee-free and easy to set up at banks, building societies and credit unions.
Pros: You can get at the money throughout the year should you need it and as they pay interest your money should grow in value.
Cons: Interest rates are poor.
Credit union Christmas account: Credit unions are like banks but are owned by their customers.
Pros: Generally pay better interest than banks, though Aotearoa CU is currently paying 5 per cent. Money saved can only be spent at certain times – usually November and December.
Cons: Money is locked away though in cases of hardship the money can be released.
A Hampsta account: A savings account with a debit card. Savers drip-feed money in by direct debit, and can spend it at stores including Mad Butcher, Noel Leeming, Briscoes, Super Liquor and Toyworld.
Pros: Allows disciplined saving. Money can only be spent between December 1 and January 10. Money is held by Public Trust so if Hampsta went bust it is safe.
Cons: No interest is paid. Also there is a joining fee of $20 and a $39 annual fee. In addition, Countdown has pulled out so general grocer- ies can only be bought with Supermarket Online.
Hamper companies: The likes of Chrisco put out their catalogues of meat, booze and grocery hampers and toys. People choose what they want and then pay by direct debit/AP or credit card throughout the year.
Pros: Tried and tested. The money you give is put beyond reach and beyond temptation by family.
Cons: Buyers overpay compared to prices in the supermarkets. If a hamper company goes bust, customers may lose some or all of their money.
Supermarket Christmas schemes: Take Pak’nSave’s card-based scheme as an example. You can save regularly through automatic payments (minimum $5 each time) or just add money in-store whenever you can.
Pros: A way to prefund food and booze for Christmas. You can spend saved money at any time but you get to spend more if you wait until November 30 to spend it. Here it gets a bit complicated. Depending on when you save each of your $5 contributions, they are worth between $5.32 and $5.17 when spent after November 30.
Cons: The terms and conditions are too hard to read.