December 26th is the most fascinating day of the year. It doesn't receive a ton of hype with Christmas as its next door neighbor, but there's still a lot going on and everyone experiences this day a little bit differently.
There's the guy who wakes up in his apartment, hears the neighbor below him banging on a new drum set, hears the neighbor above him using a new 500-horsepower blender, and the guy just stares at the ceiling thinking, "Welp, so much for 2019."
There's the gal who gathers all of their disappointing gifts together and heads back to the mall. It's crazy to me the sense of urgency we have with Christmas returns. For example, I started a new job on November 12th. I need to rollover my former 401k. A month and a half later, all I've done is print out the forms. There are thousands of dollars in limbo and I'm in no rush whatsoever.
But so help me, if I receive two copies of the same John Steinbeck book, I'll be at Barnes and Noble the next day getting my $20 of store credit. I can't even wait 24 hours to make that switch.
Or how about Boxing Day. We don't really know what Boxing Day means but we like it. We start seeing all of these 60-75 percent off sales and have no choice but to head back to the stores. It begins to sink in that all of the best deals aren't on Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, or any of the other pre-Christmas specials. No, it's right here on December 26th. I firmly believe that we could all save $250,000 in our lifetime by celebrating Christmas a week later.
Part of what makes December 26th unique is the contrast. Everything leading up to Christmas is a giant countdown. We have Advent calendars. Seven days til Christmas. Christmas Eve. And then, not too far after the 26th, there we go again with New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. The College Football Playoff usually occupies the 28th, 29th, or 30th, which means December 26th (and the 27th) are the ultimate lame duck days of the year. There's nothing to countdown, nothing to celebrate. It's too late in the year to turn things around and it's too early to start any New Year's resolutions. It's best to just be on vacation; spend the 26th in sweatpants eating an absurd amount of leftover ham.
But not everyone takes vacation on December 26th. The office on this day is a total mixed bag. A third of the people don't want to be there. You can hear the mumbling. "I can't believe I'm working the day after Christmas" or "Why'd I pretend to go to the dentist back in March?" Another third is working way too hard. This group is usually $2,000 short of their yearly quota and are hitting the phones harder than ever. If they do get someone on the phone, it's usually pretty successful. The customer replies, "Here, take my wallet. Now will you please just go on vacation?"
The final group walks around the office happy as a clam. Christmas is over! No more stress of the holidays. They're wearing pajamas in the office, because... who cares. You already get credit for being one of the few people there, so why spike the football by dressing up? And, while the people in sales are scrambling to hit their number, people in finance are scrambling to get all of the end of year reports ready, the c-suite is scrambling to build the new plan for 2019, this person takes a seat at their desk, pulls out a Tupperware full of Honey Baked ham with a side of scrambled eggs. He or she may physically be sitting in the office, but they are in a pure state of vacation bliss.
Everyone experiences December 26th a little bit differently, but the one thing we all have in common is that punch-to-the-gut feeling when we pull up the credit card or bank statement. That feeling is best summed up in one word:
The Oof is inevitable. It's the holiday hangover. And, just like we're not thinking at the bar, "Oh man, this is gonna hurt tomorrow," we also don't want to think about personal finance during the holidays. Where's the fun in that? The stories we want to tell are about the gifts received, not the money saved.
But the result is staring at the credit card balance for three minute without blinking, whispering to yourself, "What have I done? What have I done? What have I done?!" My credit card doesn't even show a balance on December 26th, it just posts a link to the Top 10 biggest comebacks in sports history. Hey, you can turn this thing around just like the Cubs did when they were down 3-1!
December 26th begs the question: How can you save money during next year's holiday season? How can you avoid the post-Christmas Oof, or at least soften the Oof? And, most importantly, how do you still capture that warm and fuzzy feeling of the holiday season with gifts and presents while still keeping your bank account in tact?
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to introduce to you: The Compound Shopper.
When you go to checkout online or at a store, The Compound Shopper takes the amount you are about to pay (let's say $200) and shows what that would look like after the snowballing effects of compound interest in 20, 30, 40 years. If, in that moment of purchase, we're looking at these numbers and see future amounts of $800, $1,600, $3,200, we might look at whatever is on the store counter or online cart and think, "Eh, I'll pass."
If you choose the "I'll pass" option, there's a celebration that breaks out on your phone similar to when somebody sends one of those balloon-heavy happy birthday texts. If you have the money available in checking, the app immediately transfers the $200 to your 401k/IRA/HSA or, if you were about to use credit, it logs this activity and shows you an end of week/month/year report on how much you saved in credit card interest (compound interest's evil twin).
The message of The Compound Shopper will be about giving your future self even better gifts. It's not just "here's what you can put in savings" it's "here's what you can buy in 10+ years." Choose not to spend $1,000 today on a drum set, you just bought your 70-year-old self a drum set used by Ringo Starr. Choose not to spend $500 on a blender, you just bought your 60-year-old self a Smoothie King franchise in Naperville. Go with the smaller ham at the grocery store, you just bought yourself an entire pig for your 50th birthday.
The Compound Shopper makes saving money fun again. Or maybe fun for the very first time. The motto is all about delayed gratification. Because nothing says Christmas morning quite like a 4-year-old kid in tears and their parent pulling them aside, clicking on The Compound Shopper app, and saying, "Here bud, look at this. I just put you through college with that Hot Wheels money. Or like two weeks of college. Isn't that great!"
As always, this idea is 100 percent free for the taking. If it works, send me a check someday that seems fair. If it fails, hey, who said it was going to work?
This idea not for you? No worries. Here are others from the Please Take These Ideas catalog.
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Happy New Year!