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A Financial Festivus for the Rest of Us

This article was written by in Personal Finance. 20 comments.


To all those who celebrate, have a successful Festivus. I’ve come to be a fan of this secular “holiday,” celebrated every year on December 23 following its mass introduction to the public through an episode of Seinfeld. At its core is a non-commercial, non-religious approach to the season. While I do enjoy gift exchanges with friends and family and everything else that goes along with the holiday season, the traditions of Festivus are interesting and applicable to everyone.

Before Seinfeld, Festivus was but one family’s tradition. This family produced a comedy writer, Daniel O’Keefe — how could it not? — who incorporated some of the aspects of the holiday into the television show in 1997. The episode aired thirty years after the first familial Festivus celebration. The primary symbol of the holiday is the aluminum Festivus pole with a “very high strength-to-weight ratio.” Two primary holiday practices have entered the public from the holiday: the airing of grievances and the feats of strength.

The airing of grievances

Festivus poleIn dealing with personal finances, everyone can relate to these traditions. In today’s modern world, any individual who pays attention to his or her own financial situation can have grievances to air. In the typical manner of Festivus, celebrants air grievances against each other. For our purposes, it will be more constructive or cathartic to air grievances against the companies that charged us extra fees, salespeople who stretched the truth or lied to encourage us to buy something, and reflect on the mistakes we made with money throughout the past year.

Here’s my grievance from a recent encounter. I purchased a used camera from a local shop a few weeks ago. I like buying from local shops rather than from the internet in some cases, because if local shops aren’t supported, they’ll eventually disappear. I found a great deal and wanted to take advantage of it. One of my concerns with used cameras is the shutter actuation count; if a camera has been used too much, as it might be if it were used by a professional, the shutter mechanism wears down and will eventually need to be replaced, if the value of the camera warrants part replacement rather than full replacement.

I was mostly sure that this model would not indicate the true shutter count unless brought into a Canon shop, but the store owner convinced me the shutter count was readable, just like the older models. The information he pulled up on the camera showed a very low shutter count; a count I thought would be too low considering the wear on the camera’s grip. I took his word as the expert, and after trying out the camera in the store, bought it for the great price we negotiated. I probably should have waited to research the model at home to confirm my belief — that the shutter actuation count was not readable by the user. I will eventually take the camera to the Canon service center near my house to determine the true shutter count. Even if the number is high, I still got a great deal. Even if I end up paying to replace the shutter, the total I will have paid is still less than I figured I’d be paying for the camera.

I don’t think the owner was intentionally lying to me in order to make the sale, as his opinion is probably a common misconception about this camera model. I should have taken my time, though, and I should go back and let him know what the true shutter count is when I am able to retrieve that information.

What are your grievances? Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Unexpected bank fees
  • Hassles when returning purchased items to a store
  • Confrontations with your boss
  • Tenants who don’t pay their rent on time

The feats of strength

In Seinfeld, Festivus celebrants displayed feats of strength by challenging each other to a wrestling match. Rather than physical strength, I think it’s fair for Consumerism Commentary readers to focus on financial strength. While I review my finances and look for positive trends at the end of every month, this isn’t enough for the holiday. Most successes that I’ve seen so far are ordinary financial feats of strength. A brave decision with money is a the type of strength that would be appropriate to celebrate for Festivus.

This year, my biggest financial feat of strength might be obvious. It is my decision to leave my day-job salary and benefits behind and pursue with greater vigor what I had already been doing. Consumerism Commentary is now the bulk of what financially sustains me, and without the relative security of a pay check, that was a difficult decision to make. In fact, it took several years for me to have enough faith in the long-term sustainability of this income to be willing to make the leap.

For your feats of strength, here are some examples to get you thinking:

  • A promotion at work
  • Finding a treasure of coins in the couch you bought used
  • Getting out of debt

Air your grievances and share your feats of strength from the past year. The comments on this article are open for anyone who has a grievance or feat of strength. Which banks gave you problems? Did you make any mistakes with your investments? What were your successes and strengths in 2011?

Editor’s note: This article ran originally last year, but I’m bringing it back for 2011.

Photo: M. Keefe

Published or updated December 21, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Darwin's Money

Ahh, the airing of the grievances – perfect!

- I’m really annoyed with tip jars popping up everywhere. I shouldn’t have to tip for something today that I didn’t 2 years ago. The recession’s over!

- I’m annoyed with being pestered for charitable contributions at checkout counters. I don’t have the resources to investigate the charities, the efficient use of their funds or what the funds really go toward.

- Congress – makes me vomit in my mouth.

Happy Festivus!

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avatar Investor Junkie

Tips I also agree on.. and wrote a post about.

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avatar Jon - Free Money Wisdom

I agree with the tips. However, you think the recession is over? I disagree with that. We’re headed for worse financial straits than ever before. I hate how the post office is so anal. I tried getting my passport and because I no longer reside in WA I have to have my license changed to a California resident. I guess I’ll be waiting to get my passport when I go back and visit WA. Ridiculous rules.

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avatar Hazzard

Grievance:
Politicians = FAIL
The national debt is WAAAAAAY to high!

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avatar SteveDH

Bad: Having to press 1 for english. :-(
Having to play Whack-a-Mole with bank and account Fees :-( :-(
So Far So Good: Positive cash flow in the first three years of my retirement :-)

Happy Festivus

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avatar Evan

SERENITY NOW!

Strength – Keeping on the path I laid out last year!

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avatar Little House

Grievance:
My state’s economy is in the dumpster with no relief insight!

Feat of Strength:
Paying down a large portion of my debt. I’m at the half-way mark. ;)

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avatar Clay Ivy

Bank Fees!!!! I just wrote about some of the terrible fees banks are charging!!! If your bank is charging you monthly fees, you need to find another bank.

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avatar krantcents

The things that bother me are things I can not control! But I am working on it. Things like gas prices that go up like a rocket and slips so slowly. Food prices, gas , clothing and services, but the government says there is no inflation.

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

Gripe=all the little fees that they add onto Cable bills.

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avatar Rachel

Grievance – car repairs and other unexpected items that throw a wrench in all that careful financial planning!

Feat of Strength – job promotion & raise followed by changing jobs to something with even better pay, working conditions and phenomenal benefits. WINNING!

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avatar Scott

Grievance: One of the local auto repair shops trying to get me to replace my perfectly good tires. I got into an argument with them about it, and now I have to find another less dishonest repair shop.
Feat of Strength: Avoiding consumerism and the feeling that you need more to be happy. I’m happy with what I have and I have no desire to add to it.

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avatar Holly

Gripe: The department store not honoring my $10 off coupon because Christmas tree ornaments are apparently not considered in the same category as ‘household goods’.

Strength: Not dipping into our savings this year to cover unexpected gift-spending overages!

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avatar Emily Guy Birken

Grievance: the fact that I have to wait for the pending charge that I did not make to my credit card to go through before my credit card company will allow me to dispute it. AARRGGHH! If I knew how to contact the “vendor,” I’d avoid all this rigamarole.

Feat of Strength: Freelancing this year and being able to stay afloat with it.

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avatar Melissa

I bemoan the fact that I had autopay set up on my Citi credit card at $300 a month so I could pay off my balance faster…and then we decided to take other monies to pay it off in full on November 18th, 2011. You would think that since I had a zero balance that they wouldn’t take a payment out, right? Supposedly, their computer interface or whatever they use doesn’t understand to not take a payment out when no payment is due, since there is a zero balance, and therefore, nothing to pay!! So, they took $300 out of my account on 12/1 (actually I didn’t have $300 in there for the first day, so I was charged a $25 nsf charge by my credit union) then they took $300 out so now I have a $300 credit my card! Can you believe that the CSR said that their computer couldn’t tell who had a zero balance and who didn’t and if you don’t go in and change your automatic payments they will take out $300 forever!!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,550 (Platinum)

That’s crazy! The credit card company shouldn’t take a payment if you owe nothing. Perhaps they’d be willing to compensate you for the NSF fee. I thought most automated payments will not pull a payment if it would made your balance positive.

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avatar Melissa

No, they won’t reimburse us, we’ve asked several times. They just act like we are stupid for having not cancelled the autopay option on our account. I think the CU will credit us back the NSF fee. I just abhor Citibank. I have since gone through the 29 step (lol) process to cancel the autopay. These big banks are just too scary for me. I now have my 1 credit card at the credit union.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

Grievance-
I am on board with the tip jars, I abhor those things. That I trusted a salesman to honor his word and did not get a promise he made in writing. The new management at our office and their encourage by intemedation attitude.
Strength-
I have a very good Emergency fund. My husband and I have secure jobs. I stayed in budget this Christmas.

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

Grievance: Macy’s not honoring the gazillion coupons they sent to store credit card holders on Black Friday – even though they said “good on Black Friday”. I’m done with that store.

Feat of Strength: Getting a higher-paying job with better benefits, and paying for Christmas with cash this year.

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avatar PKamp3

This is a hilarious analogy… Happy Festivus to you, too!

The only problem with Festivus was no alcohol at dinner, haha.

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