Malaysia has always been known as a cultural melting pot, and one of the benefits we enjoy is the many (many, many) festivals we get to celebrate. Regardless of race or religion, Malaysians love the public holidays, the festive house hopping for sumptuous meals and buttery cookies, and of course the leisure of driving around the empty streets of KL!
The festive season is knocking at our doors again with the spirit of Deepavali in full swing. With a few more days to go for the festival of lights, it’s time for celebration, light decorations, great bonding time with friends and family, new clothes, glittering jewellery, firecrackers… the list never ends.
Often times, in our excitement to celebrate we are tempted to overspend, with expenses spiraling out of control before we come to realise it. For most Hindu families, the month of Deepavali proves to be the most expensive. However, if we manage our finances wisely, we need not necessarily be in a financially difficult position despite the celebrations.
What do we usually spend on for Deepavali? Let us assume the expenditure of a typically family of four would approximately cost:
1. Clothing and accessories
During festive seasons, it is normal that we want to look and dress our finest. Wearing new clothes on the morning of Deepavali after a cooling oil bath is part of a long tradition. A set of clothes for a family of four would approximately cost:
There might be some additional costs like a tailoring fee of RM100. However, if we were to purchase designer clothing from boutiques, this cost can easily skyrocket to a few thousands of Ringgit.
How to keep cost low:
You can cut down on expenses if you choose to make your own attire, look for last-day sales or reduce the number of pieces you get and reuse your existing accessories.
2. Cookies and sweets
What is Deepavali without the famous crunchy murukku or freshly baked ghee cookies? Years back, we could still see our grandparents making them at home while the current generation has opted to buying them from shops as they either do not have the time to make them or lack the expertise to do so.
If you intend to have 10 different types of savoury snacks and sweets to serve your guests, the cost could spike even further.
How to keep cost low:
Many ignore the fact that not only is it cheaper to be done at home, it is also fresher and healthier. Doing it at home may only cost you half the price of buying it from the shop. You would most probably spend around RM150 buying flour, sugar, ghee, spices, almonds, jelly, pineapple, chocolate, and other ingredients and less than RM100 on electricity.
3. Deepavali “makan”
It is the part of the Malaysian culture to serve our guests with sumptuous meals on the festive day. How much would it cost to invite 30 guests over for a party?
If you cater the food, at about RM20 per pax, it would cost up to approximately RM600. This does not include canopy and seating, if you require them.
How to keep cost low:
Cooking at home does not only save you money and safeguards your health, but it also gives you the privilege to portray your cooking skills and the joy to serve your guests home cooked meals. At the same time, it could be a time of bonding by coming together to cook as a family. And the best part, you could have more food for less money!
3. House refurbishment and decoration
Another common sight during Deepavali is the colourful and grand decorations in different houses. House decorations generally consists of kolam, fresh flowers, running lights, “Happy Deepavali” hanging cutouts, and many more. For those who go a step further, they would even refurbish their houses with new curtains, sofa, table cloth and repainting.
Decorations may cost a few hundreds for the minor ones and few thousands for bigger ticket items like sofas.
How to keep the cost low:
Try rearranging the furniture and wipe them with a polish for a new and refreshed look. The same goes for decorations and curtains. Maybe have two sets and alternate them every year.
Painting your house on your own can cause you RM1,400 (cost of paint for ten 5-litre buckets) while getting a contractor to paint for you can cost up to RM4,000 (paint and workmanship) for a single storey link house.
The above are just some of the common expenses that most families spend on. There could be more unexpected expenses that come along. It is always best to keep some buffer cash for such instances.
In total, a typically family of four would spend approximately RM5,000 – this can very well be an individual’s one month salary.
3 steps to avoid falling into debt this festive season
Planning your Deepavali expenses is important as it enables you to know where you can save. Following are some ideas, though a bit stale, but never runs out of its magic:
Plan a budget
Prepare a realistic overall budget for the festive season and stick to it. This will allow you to know how far you can stretch your finances. For this to be effective, the budget should be drawn up as early as possible, to give you enough time to save up for the festival.
Have a checklist
Before you go out shopping, make a checklist of items you want to purchase and adhere to it. This will help you avoid making unnecessary or impulsive purchases.
Keep an eye on the swipes
Going out shopping on a swiping spree can cause your expenditure to go out of hand. So, always keep track of your expenses. Write down the amount of the items every time you make a purchase, and keep track of the total. Or you can work backwards, whereby indicate the amount you have allocated, and minus off from it every time you make a purchase. Remember, swiping your credit card is easy, dealing with the bills is not.
Despite how modern we have become, festivals like Deepavali represent our roots and traditions. Family get-together is a must-have for the festive season as this is the best opportunity to bond and mingle, especially with our extended family. However, being well prepared financially during the festive season will add to the beautiful memories you make with your family.